Republican Forms: Constitutionalism and Democracy

Philip Pettit

in Republicanism

Published in print September 1999 | ISBN: 9780198296423
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600081 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Political Theory

 Republican Forms: Constitutionalism and Democracy

Show Summary Details


The republican state must not only seek to combat the effects of dominium in giving rise to domination, it must also guard against the domination that can be associated with the imperium of government. If the way in which government operates is not to be subject to manipulation on an arbitrary basis, then there are a number of constitutionalist conditions, which it must plausibly fulfil and these have also been identified as important in the republican tradition. They include the rule of law, the separation of power, and counter‐majoritarian safeguards. Not all discretion can be profitably removed, however, and the only way for a republican regime to guarantee that this exercise of discretion is not hostile to the interests and ideas of people at large, or of some section of the community, is to introduce systematic possibilities for ordinary people to contest the doings of government. This points us towards the ideal of a democracy, based not on the alleged consent of the people, but rather on the contestability by the people of everything that government does. A contestatory democracy will have to be deliberative, requiring that decisions be based on considerations of allegedly common concern, if there is to be a systematically available basis for people to challenge what the government does. It will have to be inclusive, making room for people from every quarter to be able to press challenges against legislative, executive, or judicial decisions. And it will have to be responsive to the contestations that are brought against government decisions.

Keywords: constitution; contestation; counter‐majoritarian difficulty; democracy; domination; government; rule of law; separation of power

Chapter.  15745 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.