A review of Landemore’s Democratic Reason

A review of Landemore’s Democratic Reason by Alfred Moore published in Contemporary Political Theory:

Landemore argues that rule by the many is better than rule by the few or the one because it can harness ‘democratic reason’. Democratic Reason refers to the collective political intelligence of the many, which in turn is a function of individual epistemic competence and the cognitive diversity of the group. [S]he claims that a group containing diverse perspectives, interpretations, heuristics and predictive models, will be better at making decisions than a less diverse group of people, even if they are individually smarter. As the key feature of democracy is that it is an inclusive decision procedure, and inclusion tends to increase cognitive diversity, democracies are likely to outperform rival regime types.

One Response

  1. > Landemore focuses her attention on the claim of democracy as a way of finding the correct answers to questions of not only means but also ends.

    Goodness me, does Helene actually use the word “correct” in this context? The review is shot through with epistemic terms such as “outperform”, “competence”, “procedure-independent standard of success”, “factual or moral ‘truth’ of the matter”, “voters have a better than even chance of being right”, “strategy for finding the right answer”, “some political questions have a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ answer according to an independent standard of correctness”. This is a long way removed from the standard normative account of democracy and leads the reviewer to ask “Are ‘white supremacists’ really best described as ‘incompetent people’?”. It’s been some time since I read Helene’s book, but the review would tend to confirm Nadia Urbinati’s view that the epistemic turn is one of the key disfigurations of democracy.


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