Volume 53, Issue 4, December 2013
An Autonomy-Centered Defense of Democracy
According to Thomas Christiano, autonomy-centered arguments for democratic rights are not successful. These arguments fail to show that there is anything wrong with citizens who want to trade-off their political rights in exchange for more autonomy regarding their private affairs. The trade-off problem suggests that democratic participation is not necessary for leading a free life. My reply employs recent work in the republican tradition. The republican conception of freedom as non-domination supports the incommensurability of the public and the private aspects of autonomy. Christiano overlooks that trading-off the normative conditions of one’s public autonomy results in agents who are mere subjects to the dominating will of those citizens who retain their democratic rights. Since democratic decisions apply to all citizens, the privatized members end up being dominated, especially with respect to the collective determination of the very border separating the private from the public realm.