🦋 How to get to the core of democracy

Filling the gap between theory and empiricism

Many criticisms of conceptions of democracy are directed more at the institutional design than at its normative underpinnings. These include such things as the concept of representativeness. We propose focussing more on the normative foundations assessed by the different institutional frameworks than discussing the institutional frameworks themselves. We develop a new concept, which we call the ‘core principle of democracy’. By doing so, we address the conceptual and methodological puzzles theoretically and empirically. Thus, we embrace a paradigm shift.

A singular core principle of democracy

Democracy is a latent construct and, by nature, not directly observable. Nevertheless, we are searching for indicators and empirically observable characteristics we can assign to democratic conceptions. However, by focusing only on specific patterns of institutions, only sometimes derived from theoretical considerations, we block our view of its multiple meanings. Thus, we’ve no choice but to search behind the scenes for the underlying ‘core’ principle the institutions serve.

Concept tree: singular core principle of democracy

Proposal for an empirical approach

The paradigm shift

To sum up, the paradigm shift we aim to stimulate cannot simply consist of saying that liberal democracy is no longer the (unspoken) ideal to which we aspire, including the principle of representation and free and fair elections as the core of democracy. Neither does the paradigm shift mean imagining deliberative democracy as the ideal democracy and then measuring everything that wishes to label itself democracy in the future based on whether there are deliberative participation formats.



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The Science of Democracy

The Science of Democracy

Republished essays, in chronological order, from The Loop’s short essay series on the “science of democracy”