Inclusion and Participation: Working with the Tensions

Gideon Calder


Democracy is crucially about inclusion: a theory of democracy must account for who is to be included in the democratic process, how, and on what terms. Inclusion, if conceived democratically, is fraught with tensions. This article identifies three such tensions, arising respectively in: (i) the inauguration of the democratic public; (ii) enabling equal participation; and (iii) the relationship between instrumental and non-instrumental accounts of democracy’s value. In each case, I argue, rather than seeking somehow to dissolve or avoid such tensions, theories of democracy should allow us to live with their implications reflexively: to work with them. Such tensions are counter-democratic to the extent that they derail what Nancy Fraser calls “participatory parity,” under which citizens count as “full partners in social interaction.” But the extent to which they do this is not itself dependent on points of paradox in the very idea of inclusion. Such parity relies on complex factors, social and economic, which democratic institutions and procedures will not by themselves address. To achieve full democratic inclusion we must already have addressed such factors; no account of democracy itself, however finely-tuned, will do this.


democracy; equality; inclusion; Nancy Fraser; participation; participatory parity

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