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Democratic Rights: The Substance of Self-Government Hardcover – July 22, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0691119700 ISBN-10: 0691119708

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Democratic Rights: The Substance of Self-Government + Democracy and Distrust: A Theory of Judicial Review (Harvard Paperbacks)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (July 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691119708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691119700
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,056,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2007

"Develops a 'value theory of democracy' grounded in political autonomy, equality of interests, and reciprocity."--Nina C. Ayoub, Chronicle of Higher Education

"[B]rettschneider has produced an innovative, imaginative new perspective on judicial review. He makes a persuasive case that democracy itself demands the legal recognition of certain substantive rights....[N]o one interested in rights or democratic theory can afford to ignore this book."--A.D. Sarat, Choice

"Princeton University Press's decision to issue a paperback edition of Corey Brettschneider's ambitious Democratic Rights, three years after the book's initial appearance, is one that students of democratic theory and political theorists in general should applaud. . . . Democratic Rights is not only ambitious but distinctive, then, and marked by virtues that one does not always find in such books, being clearly written, carefully argued, and admirably concise. It is a book, in short, that is well worth the attention of democratic theorists and anyone who wants to know how far contractualism can take us in political and legal philosophy."--Richard Dagger, Criminal Law and Philosophy

From the Inside Flap

"No problem of democratic theory is more formidable than how to reconcile majority rule with respect for individual rights. Democratic Rights is an original and compelling contribution to this debate--one that will affect the course of democratic theory for years to come. Among its most provocative and ingenious arguments is its case for the illegitimacy of the death penalty and the political parity of property and welfare rights under a democratic constitution. The prose is a model of compact lucidity."--Eamonn Callan, Stanford University

"First-rate. In a consistently accessible style, Corey Brettschneider presents a clear, innovative argument that he sustains in an elegant and economical way throughout."--Simone Chambers, University of Toronto

"This ambitious book establishes its author as a scholar setting out a distinctive and credible position within liberal democratic theory. Clear and accessible, it reaches eminently reasonable conclusions on a range of policy issues, and develops a theoretical structure that can be used to apply the author's recommended 'middle course' (between 'pure proceduralist' democrats and 'nondemocratic' liberals) directly to constitutional law and matters of basic justice."--Leif Wenar, University of Sheffield

More About the Author

COREY BRETTSCHNEIDER is professor of political science at Brown University, where he teaches courses in political theory and public law. He is also professor, by courtesy, of philosophy. Brettschneider was a Rockefeller Faculty Fellow at the Princeton University Center for Human Values, a visiting associate professor at Harvard Law School and a Faculty Fellow at the Harvard Safra Center for Ethics. Brettschneider received a PhD in Politics from Princeton University and a JD from Stanford University. He is the author of Democratic Rights: The Substance of Self-Government (Princeton University Press, 2007), When the State Speaks, What Should it Say? (Princeton University Press, 2012), and Constitutional Law and American Democracy (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen 2011).

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In his book, Democratic Rights: The Substance of Self-Government, Corey Brettschneider addresses the normative question, “what are the best principles on which a democracy should be founded?” He claims that political theorists often consider individual rights to be in opposition with democratic ideals. When the government is obliged to rule in accordance with the rights of the people, it cannot always rule in accordance with the will of the people. According to some scholars, procedures and structure are the best principles on which to establish a democratic government in order to ensure fair representation. Brettschneider does not take this view. His “value theory of democracy” places the fundamental rights of individuals as the basis for fair representation and consideration in a substantive democratic society.

Brettschneider does not claim to definitively know why some scholars find proceduralism appealing. He theorizes that some proceduralists are grounded in the assumption that democracies are inherently majoritarian. Instead, Brettschneider operates under the belief that democracies should be counter-majoritarian. He justifies this viewpoint through a contractarian approach to democracy. Popularized by political philosophers such as Rousseau, Kant and Rawls, contractarianism cites the consent of the governed as the only practical foundation to establish a democracy. Consent denotes the exchange of certain rights for the pledged protection of others. These rights are pledged to be protected in order to eliminate the power of the majority to vote them away.

Opponents of contractarianism point to morality as a flawed basis for government due to the inherently subjective nature of morals.
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