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Democratic ReasonPolitics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many$
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Hélène Landemore

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691155654

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691155654.001.0001

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Democracy as the Rule of the Dumb Many?

Democracy as the Rule of the Dumb Many?

(p.27) Chapter Two Democracy as the Rule of the Dumb Many?
Democratic Reason

Hélène Landemore

Princeton University Press

This chapter illustrates the deeply entrenched prejudice of political philosophers, including some democratic theorists, against “the rule of the dumb many.” It offers a critical literature survey showing how most traditional approaches to democracy either deny or circumvent the question of the people's competence to rule, with the exception of a tiny but growing literature on “epistemic democracy.” In fact, with the exception of the latter, the question of the cognitive competence of average citizens and the related question of the performance of democratic institutions either raises profound skepticism or is avoided altogether in contemporary democratic theory, both positive and normative. As a result, many theories and justifications of democracy tend to be competence insensitive, either denying that citizens' political incompetence is a problem or circumventing what they do see as a problem through an “elitist” definition of democracy as rule by the elected enlightened.

Keywords:   dumb many, incompetent multitude, critical literature survey, epistemic democracy, contemporary democratic theory, political incompetence, elected enlightened

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