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On the People's Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy

af Philip Pettit

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According to republican theory, we are free persons to the extent that we are protected and secured in the same fundamental choices, on the same public basis, as one another. But there is no public protection or security without a coercive state. Does this mean that any freedom we enjoy is a superficial good that presupposes a deeper, political form of subjection? Philip Pettit addresses this crucial question in On the People's Terms. He argues that state coercion will not involve individual subjection or domination insofar as we enjoy an equally shared form of control over those in power. This claim may seem utopian but it is supported by a realistic model of the institutions that might establish such democratic control. Beginning with a fresh articulation of republican ideas, Pettit develops a highly original account of the rationale of democracy, breathing new life into democratic theory.… (mere)
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This book spans a broad range of philosophical topics from political justice to democratic legitimacy. It even lives up to its title by providing a thorough theoretical model of how an ideal democracy should work. I don't remember any other work where such a broad scope has been covered without sacrificing cohesion or argumentative strength. This book is an exemplary model of what political philosophy should look like in the 21st century.

Chapter 3 on political legitimacy in democracy is probably the best discussion on this subject that I've come across. Chapter 5, which discusses ideas of democratic control from Schumpeter to the author's own, partly market-inspired model, is also highly original and interesting. Chapter 2 on social justice was much less inspiring, but this is probably due to my own predilections, not the text itself.

I also liked the author's concise step-by-step summary of the entire argument at the end of the book. All in all this is great work and probably unique in the way it unifies the traditional ethical perspective of political philosophy with more descriptive and pragmatic ones from democratic theory. It asks a lot from its readers but also richly rewards focused students by opening up new vistas across many different subfields in political thought. It goes without saying that I highly recommend it.
  thcson | Jan 1, 2015 |
Pettit lays out his explanation of republicanism as non-domination and how it relates to democracy in this series of lectures. An important sequel to his earlier work on civic republicanism. ( )
  Fledgist | Apr 7, 2013 |
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According to republican theory, we are free persons to the extent that we are protected and secured in the same fundamental choices, on the same public basis, as one another. But there is no public protection or security without a coercive state. Does this mean that any freedom we enjoy is a superficial good that presupposes a deeper, political form of subjection? Philip Pettit addresses this crucial question in On the People's Terms. He argues that state coercion will not involve individual subjection or domination insofar as we enjoy an equally shared form of control over those in power. This claim may seem utopian but it is supported by a realistic model of the institutions that might establish such democratic control. Beginning with a fresh articulation of republican ideas, Pettit develops a highly original account of the rationale of democracy, breathing new life into democratic theory.

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