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Democracy and Equality, 1 LAW, CULTURE AND THE HUMANITIES 142 (2005); republished in 603 ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCE 24 (2006).


In this article, I shall discuss the relationship between democracy and equality. Consideration of this topic is made difficult because “democracy” is such a notoriously vague and encompassing term. It is often used as an elastic synonym for good government, stretching to include whatever is desirable in a state. Understood in this way, of course, the idea of democracy loses specific content and analytic bite. If democracy means merely good and desirable government, we need not discuss democracy at all but only the forms of equality that ought to characterize a modern state.

In this article, I shall take a very different path. I shall closely examine the meaning of democracy, and, having fixed a definition, I shall discuss the logical and practical connections between this definition and various forms of equality. I begin with what I take to be the unobjectionable premise that democracy refers to “the distinction between autonomy and heteronomy: Democratic forms of government are those in which the laws aremade by the same people towhomthey apply (and for that reason they are autonomous norms), while in autocratic forms of government the law-makers are different from those to whom the laws are addressed (and are therefore heteronomous norms)” (Bobbio 1989, 137). The question I shall address is the relationship between autonomous forms of government and equality.

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