Democratic theories that argue for expanding the scope and domain of democracy assume that democratic experiences will transform individuals in democratic ways. Individuals are likely to become more public-spirited, tolerant, knowledgeable, and self-reflective than they would otherwise be. This assumption depends on viewing the self as socially and discursively constituted, a view that contrasts with the standard liberal-democratic view of the self as prepolitically constituted and narrowly self-interested. The importance of the social and discursive view of the self is that it highlights how standard assumptions about the self help to justify limits to democratic participation. As now conceptualized, however, the transformational assumption does not meet standard objections to expanding democracy. I sketch an approach that distinguishes classes of interests according to their potentials for democratic transformation, and strengthens—by qualifying—transformative expectations in democratic theory.
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