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DEMOS 21

Laura Valentini: Who Should Decide? Beyond the Democratic Boundary Problem

Online Talk (via Zoom) – Registration required.
Wednesday, December 9, 2020 - 17:00 to 18:00

Laura Valentini (Professor of Philosophy, Politics and Economics, King’s College London): "Who Should Decide? Beyond the Democratic Boundary Problem"

Who should have a say in a given decision for it to count as democratic? This is the question with which the so-called democratic boundary problem is concerned. Two main “solutions” have emerged in the literature: the all-affected principle (AAP) and the all-subjected principle (ASP). My aim in this paper is to question the presuppositions underpinning the boundary-problem debate. Scholars have proceeded by taking democracy for granted, treating it as an ultimate value. Consequently, the best solution to the boundary problem has been framed as the one that most loyally reflects the value of democracy. But it is not at all obvious that democracy is best conceptualised as an ultimate value. Arguably, democracy marks out a family of decision-making systems that are themselves justified by appeal to how they reflect and promote important values in particular circumstances. The values in question range from equality and self-determination, to peace, security, and respect for fundamental rights. In other words, what we call “democracy” is itself one of several possible solutions to the boundary problem (i.e., the problem of who should take part in a given decision): a solution that is contingently justified by appeal to a variety of different values. This means that neither the AAP nor the ASP can provide one-size-fits-all solutions to the problem.

Professor Valentini holds a first degree (“laurea”) in Political Science from Pavia University (Italy), and an MA and a PhD in Political Philosophy from University College London. She was a Junior Research Fellow at the Queen’s College (Oxford University), and a postdoc at the Center for Human Values (Princeton University). Prior to joining King's, she was Lecturer in Political Philosophy at UCL and Associate Professor of Political Science at LSE. Laura has held visiting positions at the Australian National University, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, the University of Uppsala, Harvard University, and the University of Frankfurt. In 2015, she was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize in Politics and International Relations. Laura's work is situated in the fields of contemporary political, legal and moral philosophy. Her research interests include: global justice, democracy, freedom, (human) rights, political obligation, the methodology of political theory, and the relation between political theory, social ontology and the social sciences more broadly.

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