Democracy as the Search for Justice: A Defence of the Democracy/Contractualism Analogy



This article advances a partially epistemic justification of democratic authority by defending what David Estlund has called the democracy/contractualism analogy: the idea that democracy can track justice due to crucial similarities between effective democratic politics and the hypothetical deliberations employed by contractualist liberals to explicate or construct correct principles of justice. According to this analogy, the collective decision making definitive of democracy is best conceived as an attempt to realise the process of intersubjective justification that (according to contractualist liberals) defines what is just; therefore, any tendency democracy might have to produce just outcomes could conceivably be attributed to the success of such an attempt. This article explains why Estlund's arguments against the analogy fail. It argues that in a society in which the modes of reasoning specified by the analogy are widely entrenched, there is a justifiable presumption that majoritarian voting will have a tendency to result in reasonable outcomes.