Proceduralism and Popular Threats to Democracy

28 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2010

Date Written: August 30, 2010


Do pure procedural theories of democracy forbid the active defense of democratic regimes? Pure proceduralists take all democratic decisions, regardless of their content, to be authoritative. Accordingly, most political theorists argue that proceduralism requires individuals to comply with the outcome of a democratic procedure, even if that outcome is substantively undemocratic. In this essay, I challenge this contention. Proceduralists can defensibly disobey authoritative democratic decisions. By reflecting on the example of a procedural democrat in an undemocratic regime, we can see that for the proceduralist, democracy is not merely a method for making decisions - it is also a highly valuable end. Though representative institutions are not created democratically, the proceduralist has good reasons to participate in the establishment of a democratic regime. The same reasons give the proceduralist grounds to disobey authoritative decisions that threaten representative institutions. As I show, proceduralism provides a distinctive framework for thinking about the strategies democrats should employ to defend democracy.

Keywords: democracy, proceduralism, dualism

Suggested Citation

Kirshner, Alexander, Proceduralism and Popular Threats to Democracy (August 30, 2010). The Journal of Political Philosophy, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Alexander Kirshner (Contact Author)

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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