The All-Affected Principle and its Critics : A Study on Democratic Inclusion

Abstract: The problem of democratic inclusion, which concerns inclusion in and exclusion from the demos, has attracted significant scholarly attention in the last decade. The all-affected principle seeks to resolve this problem by maintaining that all those and only those who are affected should be included in the demos. But although this principle has often been regarded as a prima facie attractive solution, the literature also claims that it has been “proven” to be unreasonable. The present discussion examines this claim by undertaking a critical evaluation of the arguments upon which it is based – that the all-affected principle is incoherent, that it provides no solution because it presupposes that the problem has already been solved, that it is incompatible with political equality, that it renders a functioning democracy impossible because it either frequently changes the composition of the demos, or generates an overly inclusive demos, and that it challenges established practices of incompetence-based exclusion. Adherents of the all-affected principle must take these arguments seriously since they criticize the principle on its own terms. But insofar as the present study demonstrates that such arguments fail to reveal any generic flaw in the principle, they do not challenge the principle as such, but only certain versions of it. These include the most common version, which requires the inclusion of all those and only those who are both competent and better or worse off as an actual consequence of actual decisions taken by the democratic state. Also affected is the main alternative version, which requires the inclusion of all those and only those who are better or worse off as a possible consequence of a possible decision taken by the democratic state. In response, this thesis proposes a third version of the principle that requires the inclusion of all those and only those who are able to participate, and also better or worse off as a foreseeable consequence of a decision or non-decision that the democratic state has capacity and ability to take. This version avoids the arguments that have been brought against the all-affected principle without compromising that which makes it initially attractive.

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