The Potential Implications of Ideal Democratic Theory
As many academics have noted, democracy has become the dominant political paradigm of our time. Increasingly, normative and empirical questions of legitimacy and accountability are linked to the notion of democracy. However, despite the vast amount of literature and the wide usage of the term ‘democracy’, the concept remains highly contested. Although many (conflicting) definitions and criteria of democracy exist, theorists and practitioners alike often refer to the ‘ideal of democracy’. This reference strikes me askew because, on my reading of the literature, no ‘standard’ ideal account or theory of democracy currently exists. Rather, ideal theory has remained the purview of justice-based theorists. It is not the intention of this paper to develop an ‘ideal theory of democracy’. Rather, I will seek to explain how an ideal theory could contribute to some of the debates in the global democratic literature. I will also argue that, in order to begin working through many of the normative and empirical questions surrounding the future(s) of democracy, it is perhaps necessary to generate an ‘ideal theory’ against which different democratic rubrics can be measured. Moreover, an ‘ideal theory’ of democracy may add a new and substantive dimension to the question of stakeholder delineation. I will contend that the legitimacy of the process of global democratisation will require attention to the question of how we determine who should be included and excluded in decision-making processes in a globalising world.