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Democratic Rights: The Substance of Self-Government. By Corey Brettschneider. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. 192p. $29.95.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2008

Melissa Schwartzberg
Affiliation:
Columbia University

Extract

In his book, Corey Brettschneider defends a “substantive” conception of democracy—a “value theory of democracy”—against purely procedural accounts of democracy. Whereas “proceduralists” seek to define democracy strictly through reference to the (majoritarian) means by which decisions are rendered, Brettschneider fears that this leaves democracy rootless, at risk of producing undemocratic outcomes. His effort at solving the problem of “democratic autophagy”—the argument that democracy will consume itself through its own procedures, as I term it in Democracy and Legal Change—is twofold. First, he specifies the values that democratic rights should reflect and preserve. Second, he argues that even nonmajoritarian institutions, such as judicial review, act in a democratic fashion insofar as they help us to ensure that our laws actually do cohere with these values. The former effort is remarkably successful. In my view, however, the latter claim is less persuasive, partially because of the difficulty inherent in translating abstract substantive commitments into law.

Type
Critical Dialogue
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2008

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Democratic Rights: The Substance of Self-Government. By Corey Brettschneider. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. 192p. $29.95.
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Democratic Rights: The Substance of Self-Government. By Corey Brettschneider. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. 192p. $29.95.
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Democratic Rights: The Substance of Self-Government. By Corey Brettschneider. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. 192p. $29.95.
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