Defending The Priority of Democracy

by Jack Knight and James Johnson on February 20, 2013

We’d like to start by thanking the crew at Crooked Timber for hosting this conversation and Henry Farrell in particular for coordinating it. It is reasonably rare to have a baker’s half dozen smart people offer critical commentary on your work. So we appreciate the willingness of our interlocutors to participate in this discussion. That said, while we are tempted to rest content with the opening superlatives the discussants offer, we instead will take the opportunity to respond to the various qualms they have expressed. These, we think, fall fairly neatly into three categories: (1) questions regarding the relation of our enterprise to the sorts of ‘ideal theory’ exemplified by Rawls and those who have written in his wake; (2) doubts about operational problems with our argument – stated in terms of whether the conception of pragmatist democracy we advance is coherent or stable; and (3) questions about the sorts of learning and inquiry our arguments presuppose. We address each of these sets of qualms in turn even though, as will become clear, they intersect in important ways.

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