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Must Europe Be Swiss? On the Idea of a Voting Space and the Possibility of a Multilingual Demos

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2013


Contrary to the view that linguistic homogeneity is required to create a viable demos, this article argues that linguistic diversity can be a permanent feature of any democratic community, so long as there is a unified and robust voting space that provides a common intentional object, around which distinct public spheres can aesthetically organize their political discourse. An attempt to explain how such a voting space operates in Switzerland, the finest existing exemplar of a multilingual demos, is given. Following the Swiss example, the author proposes, would go a long way to constituting the European Union as a democratically legitimate trans-national demos, despite its formidable linguistic diversity.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute (email: The author wishes to record special thanks to Rainer Bauböck, Martin Kohli, Alexander Trechsel and two of the Journal's reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. He is also grateful for input from Philippe van Parijs, George Vasilev, Carl Fox, participants at the European University Institute Workshops ‘Linguistic Justice’ and ‘Representative Democracy in the Twenty-First Century’ and those involved in the ‘Justice and Democracy’ panel at Mancept Workshops in Political Theory, 2012.


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