Antidemocrats and the Right to Participate

25 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2013

Date Written: February 20, 2013


In the contemporary normative literature on democracy there are two schools of thought concerning the rights of the intolerant or the unreasonable. One prominent argument is that intolerant are owed respect, unless they infringe on or violate the rights of others (or will do so imminently). The second argument is that antidemocrats, or the unreasonable more broadly, can be exposed to various forms of censorship and disenfranchisement because their beliefs or activities are inconsistent with our reasons for valuing democratic participation. In this essay, I add credence to the first thesis by disparaging the latter.

The essay considers three different strategies for arguing that antidemocrats’ participation ought to be restricted. The strategies are based, respectively, on the idea that opponents of self-rule cannot advance legitimate interests while they pursue non-democracy, that antidemocrats’ beliefs and actions clash with the moral idea of reciprocity, and finally, that antidemocrats act in bad faith when they play the democratic game. Each of these theories, I contend, fails. If persuasive, my arguments suggests that the core justification for restricting the participation of antidemocrats is the same as the justification for restricting the participation of anybody else: that the participation in question is likely to invidiously infringe on the rights of others.

Keywords: antidemocrats, unreasonable, democracy, participation, rights, disenfranchisement, constitution, right to vote

Suggested Citation

Kirshner, Alexander, Antidemocrats and the Right to Participate (February 20, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Alexander Kirshner (Contact Author)

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics