This book offers a re-examination of the evidence about citizens' capacity for self-governance and what it means for the future of democratic politics, from both empirical and normative perspectives.
Are ordinary citizens capable of governing themselves? For more than three decades, social scientists have accumulated evidence of the undemocratic propensities of many ordinary citizens. This has caused some to worry about the stability of existing democratic institutions, while others argue that the institutions themselves are the problem: politics needs to be democratized further, giving citizens more opportunities to practice democratic politics and acquire democratic values.
The thirty-three contributors to this volume enter this debate with new evidence on citizens' capacity for deliberative politics. They argue that previous methods of investigation significantly underestimate people's ability to govern themselves, and that the prospects for democracy are better than conventional wisdom suggests. Realization of these prospects will depend on citizens grasping the interplay of emotions and reason in political life, creating new opportunities for citizen deliberation, and reinvigorating the institutions of representative government. Theories of democracy in turn will have to accommodate this changing reality as citizens show themselves to be self-determining in their political activities.