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Debating Democracy

Do We Need More or Less?

Jason Brennan and Hélène Landemore

Publication Date - November 2021

ISBN: 9780197540824

298 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches

In Stock


Around the world, faith in democracy is falling. Russia, Turkey, and Venezuela have moved from flawed democracies to authoritarian regimes. Brexit and the rise of far-right parties show that even stable Western democracies are struggling. Partisanship and mutual distrust are increasing. What, if anything, should we do about these problems? In this accessible work, leading philosophers Jason Brennan and Hélène Landemore debate whether the solution lies in having less democracy or more.

Brennan argues that democracy has systematic flaws, and that democracy does not and cannot work the way most of us commonly assume. He argues the best solution is to limit democracy's scope and to experiment with certain voting systems that can overcome democracy's problems.

Landemore argues that democracy, defined as a regime that distributes power equally and inclusively, is a better way to generate good governance than oligarchies of knowledge. To her, the crisis of "representative democracy" comes in large part from its glaring democratic deficits. The solution is not just more democracy, but a better kind, which Landemore theorizes as "open democracy."


  • Summarizes a massive body of empirical work on voter and democratic behavior, helping readers see how their views of justice depend in part on how they think democracy functions
  • Provides an extensive debate on the issue of when and why collective decision-making goes well or goes badly
  • Responds to the growing dissatisfaction around the world with democratic politics by offering potential solutions
  • Addresses the technocratic temptation induced by the success of China, Singapore and other technocratic regimes

About the Author(s)

Jason Brennan is the Flanagan Family Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University. He is the author of fourteen books, including The Ethics of Voting (Princeton University Press, 2012), Compulsory Voting: For and Against (Cambridge University Press, 2014), and Against Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2016). His books have been translated twenty-four times into thirteen languages. He specializes in democratic theory and politics, philosophy, and economics.

Hélène Landemore is Professor of Political Science at Yale University. She is the author of Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many (Princeton University Press, 2012), which won the Spitz Prize in 2015, and Open Democracy: Reinventing Popular Rule for the 21st Century Century (Princeton University Press, 2020). She researches democratic theory, constitutional theory, and political epistemology. She serves as an advisor to the French government on the use of citizen participation in policy-making.


"Brennan, in particular, is quite good at presenting complex ideas in a straightforward, accessible way. He uses examples well to explain the real costs of giving equal power to people with unequal knowledge, as in the case of Brexit. Landemore...presents thought--provoking suggestions, such as the increased use of randomly selected citizen assemblies. Both authors, from their very different perspectives, present intriguing ideas about how people might influence decision--making other than through the representative systems Americans are used to." -- J. Heyrman, Berea College, CHOICE

"Could democracy be a mistake? Since it gives an equal vote to the wise and the irrational alike, how well can it really be expected to perform? Couldn't experts do better, and on such momentous matters shouldn't we go for the best? This challenge is traditional, but also currently hot inside and outside academia. As against some others Jason Brennan and Hélène Landemore agree on the problem's fundamental importance, but from there much else is up for debate. As two leading contributors to the lively literature on these questions, Brennan and Landemore deliver a vividly written introduction that will appeal to students, and a cutting-edge debate of importance to scholars as well." -- David Estlund, Lombardo Family Professor of Philosophy, Brown University

"The future of democracy is one of the great issues of our time. In Debating Democracy, two of the world's leading experts on the subject debate whether the cure for democracy's ills is more democracy – as Helene Landemore argues – or whether we instead need tighter constraints on the power of democratic majorities, as Jason Brennan contends. Both defend their respective positions with great insight and skill. Scholars and laypeople alike can learn much from this outstanding work. It's hard to imagine a more timely book than this one!" -- Ilya Somin, Professor of Law, George Mason University

Table of Contents


    Part I: Brennan - Democracy without Romance
    Chapter 1. How Real Democracy Really Works
    Chapter 2. Is the Solution More Democracy?
    Chapter 3. Democracy: Less Is More
    Chapter 4. Alternatives to Democracy

    Part II: Landemore - Let's Try Real Democracy
    Chapter 5. The Argument for Democracy
    Chapter 6. Objections
    Chapter 7. Against Epistemocracies
    Chapter 8. If Democracy Is Such a Smart Regime, Why Are Democracies Doing So Poorly at the Moment and How Can We Fix Them?

    Part III: Responses by Jason Brennan and Hélène Landemore
    Chapter 9. A Response to Brennan
    Chapter 10. A Response to Landemore