Popular sovereignty and human rights are the modern pillars of legal legitimacy and political power. Liberal and republican thought, however, tend to interpret the two notions from different perspectives: either as moral principles, emphasizing the self-legislation and autonomy of individuals, or as ethical values, stressing the self-realization of the political community. Adhering to his theory of communicative action, the author brings the two principles together in a non-competitive relation. Here the connection between popular sovereignty and human rights is given by the procedures of a discursive process of opinion- and will-formation. Theoretically, the institutionalization of this process through law leads to a normative model of contemporary democracy, which is based on the substance of human rights as a formal condition for deliberative politics.**