Democracy and Equality Fusionism

The fraught relationship of democracy and equality has got to be one of those hearty perennials of political theory. Yet there is a certain strand of political theory (one noticed, but not quite approved, by Tocqueville) that sees ever greater egalitarianism in every strand of American political and social life to be synonymous with American democracy, or its most perfect expression–operating, as Christopher Caldwell has recently put it, “outside of formal democracy, but always…invoking democracy’s name.” Turning away from the favored egalitarian values championed by the writer is also a turning away from democracy, or at least democracy as ideally understood (by the writer).

Here is a book that it seems is very much in this vein: Democratic Equality (Princeton University Press), by James Lindley Wilson.

“Democracy establishes relationships of political equality, ones in which citizens equally share authority over what they do together and respect each other as equals. But in today’s divided public square, democracy is challenged by political thinkers who disagree about how democratic institutions should be organized, and by antidemocratic politicians who exploit uncertainties about what democracy requires and why it matters. Democratic Equality mounts a bold and persuasive defense of democracy as a way of making collective decisions, showing how equality of authority is essential to relating equally as citizens.

James Lindley Wilson explains why the US Senate and Electoral College are urgently in need of reform, why proportional representation is not a universal requirement of democracy, how to identify racial vote dilution and gerrymandering in electoral districting, how to respond to threats to democracy posed by wealth inequality, and how judicial review could be more compatible with the democratic ideal. What emerges is an emphatic call to action to reinvigorate our ailing democracies, and a road map for widespread institutional reform.

Democratic Equality highlights the importance of diverse forms of authority in democratic deliberation and electoral and representative processes—and demonstrates how that authority rests equally with each citizen in a democracy.”