IILJ Working Paper 2005/8 (History and Theory of International Law Series)

Two-Dimensional Democracy, National and International

Philip Pettit

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Drawing on a background in republican thought, I have argued elsewhere that democracy should have an electoral and a contestatory aspect. I argued in a normative spirit that this two-dimensional ideal is more defensible and more commanding than the more common, purely electoral alternative. But I believe that this usage of the word “democracy” also picks up some aspects of common talk, since few of us would happily apply the word to regimes, no matter how electorally unimpeachable, that failed to ensure the independence of the courts and to provide thereby for a basic form of contestation.

My aim in this paper is to recast the two-dimensional way of thinking about democracy, with the aim of preparing the ground for a consideration of what democracy should require in the international domain: in the context of international organizations and, more generally, cooperation among national governments. In section 1 I look at the two-dimensional ideal from an abstract perspective; in section 2 I consider how it might be implemented in a national context; and in section 3 I consider how far the ideal might be approximated in the international domain.