Self-Government in Our Times

Posted: 4 Jun 2010

See all articles by Adam Przeworski

Adam Przeworski

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

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Date Written: June 2009


The eighteenth-century ideal of self-government of the people was based on an assumption that renders it incoherent and unrealistic, namely, that interests and values are sufficiently harmonious that each individual needs to obey only himself while living under laws chosen by all. This conception collapses in the presence of heterogeneous preferences. Yet a weaker notion of self-government is logically coherent: A collectivity governs itself if decisions implemented on its behalf reflect the preferences of its members. I define this second-best self-government and analyze whether democratic institutions can satisfy even this definition.

Suggested Citation

Przeworski, Adam, Self-Government in Our Times (June 2009). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 12, pp. 71-92, 2009. Available at SSRN: or

Adam Przeworski (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

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