Democracy and Equality

According to Christiano, democracy is defined as a form of governmentwhich is dedicated to the full realization of the value ofself-determination (243). On the other hand, equality has beendefined as the state of being equal, more-so in term of status,social rights and opportunities. Equality therefore dictates thatthere is a symbolic element of expression of the fact that partiesare equal in a certain setting. Given these definitions,psychologists agree that democracy has a complex relationship withequality. Some of the arguments that have been presented by renownedsociologists is that democracy calls for equality of democraticagencies in the society, and these have been observed to be differentfrom some values of distributive justice and fairness. However, withsome violations of equality which are provided for by distributivejustice, democratic legitimacy has been impaired. This justifies theneed for mainstream correlation between democracy and equality. Infact, the relationship that exists between democracy and equalityshows that In this regards, the discourse and the associatedpostulations as well as ideas presented look at the relationshipbetween democracy and equality and construct an understanding to thateffect.

Democracyand Equality

According to Mansbridge et al, the society is organized it a mannerthat all the people are bound by certain terms of association (12).However, the main problem is determining who has the right ofdefining the terms of association. This is where democracy kicks in,holding that people have the right to rule over themselves. As such,all the people in a given society are equal, and that those holdingthe positions of administration are placed there by the people, towork for the people. Additionally, those who are endowed to governthe people have to account for the basic principles of democracy, andsatisfy the requirements of the terms of association. As such, theirviews have to be a reflection of a majority of the citizen’sopinion. This gives space for compatibility. This defines liberty.However, despite the argument by some sociologists that liberty as aword is incompatible with democracy, equality provides the basis forcompatibility with democracy (Wilson 78). In fact, the essences ofdemocracy have shown that equality is the fundamental motif thatdefines liberty.

All debates seem to unanimously agree with the fact that democracyimplies a commitment to equality. Examples of this equality arevoting power, equality of opportunity and gender equality, amongst anumber of many others. The relationship between democracy andequality is demonstrated by the egalitarian theories. According toMansbridge et al, egalitarian theories “attempt to derive aconception of democracy from a principle of equality amongst persons”(13). This means that the theories recognize the basic principle ofsocial interest and convictions, which put emphasis on the assumptionthat all persons in a given society have the right to demand for anddeserve an equal share in social politics. The social construction ofgovernments in a democratic process or society reveals the underlyingimportance of equality in the process. In fact, democracy is the onlyform of government that recognizes equality to its fullest. Inaddition, democracy allows the recognition of people’s libertiesthus, its construction of intrinsic value.

Additionally,according to Wilson, an egalitarian conception of the fundamental ofdemocracy takes into considerations the crucial element of liberalperception (105). This accommodates and explains the significance ofthe beliefs of the members of the society when it comes to the publicdebate on democracy. In the election process, for instance,democratic decision making does not only involve every person makingtheir own decision to vote for a certain candidate, instead, alsoinvolves the social structures that have been implemented that allowfor that person to make that decision. The people need to be givenenough space to reflect on the options and critically evaluate theirpreferences, so as to guide them in pondering about their interestsand ideals. This can only be possible if the individuals are treatedequally while being guided to make their democratic decisions.

Interestsand judgments: Their advancement to democracy and equality

Literaturehas explored the distinction between judgment and interests. This isin effort to demonstrate how these two create a connection bridgebetween the principles of equality and democracy. An interest, inthis context, is defined as an element of an individual’s generalsatisfaction. For instance, people may have interests in politics,society and power. All individuals feel that they are better off whentheir interests are satisfied, and discontent when they are not.Additionally, it has to be noted that interests and desires areentirely different, as a person may crave for things that do not addto his or her well-being. For instance, one may desire a civil war tobe over in a certain country, however, they are still well-off evenif the war is not ended, and that does not satisfy their desire. In ademocratic situation, judgment and interests define the aspects thatcultivate the value of democracy hence, the crave for justice andliberty within a democratic situation.

Therefore, equal considerations mean advancing one person’sinterest is at the same as advancing other people’s interests. Itwould not be justifiable to have one person feel more content thanother people. Thus, social institutions greatly determine howindividuals in the society fare on, and they would be consideredunjust if they made a part of the society’s members’ life bad.According to the principles of justice, all individuals have to betreated equally, regardless of their relevance to the society(Mansbridge et al. 22). Every person’s life and interests have tobe treated with equality. This is the reason why in democraticprocesses, there is a standpoint that is taken to consider everyperson’s life as worthy, and there are no justifications fortreating interests unequally.

Theabove description of the principle of interests creates a bridgebetween democracy and equality. In a democratic society, all theindividuals are given abilities to advance their concerns duringtimes of decision-making. For instance, in a democratic process, allthe people are given an equal opportunity to decide the outcome of anelection. It is the reason why undemocratic elections are consideredto violate the principle of interests and equality. Additionally,Wilson says that democracy is a process where the outcome of theelections is considered to be the wish of the society (126).According to Mansbridge et al, majority rule is a genuinelyegalitarian rule, because all the people are given an equalopportunity to affect the outcome of the election process (25). Thismeans that all the people’s concerns and interests are treated inan equal way. At the same time, everyone is given an equalopportunity to vie for a post, and consequently occupy the politicaloffice which they will be voted into, to implement what is consideredthe people’s interests. The democratic process of voting and vyingis therefore a demonstration of equality in the society.

Autonomousdemocracy and its relation to equality

Whilediscussing the relationship between democracy and equality,sociologists and political scientists assert that it is moreeffective to create the association by considering equality andautonomous democracy. Given that some authors have describeddemocratic forms as “forms of government which the laws are made bythe same people to whom they apply” (Tronto 24), there is need toaddress the association between sovereign forms of government andequality. According to Tronto, democracy cannot be viewed in the samelight as popular sovereignty, because the latter is compatible withsome forms of fascism, which accommodate dictatorship, one of thebiggest enemies of democracy (62). Additionally, democracy cannot beleveled with majoritarianism, because in the latter, the majorityhave their way, and impose their rule over the minority.

Additionally, Janda et al assert that democracy is distinct frompopular sovereignty and majoritarianism, given that it is a normativeidea denoting social and political values of the entire society (27).Given these examples, it is evident that majoritarianism and popularsovereignty never go along with equality, rather numbers. Whileequality describes the state of equality, the two describe a state ofinequality in the society, in other words, particulardecision-making. This therefore explains the value of autonomy indemocracy. Janda et al say that in governance, the values of autonomyare intrinsically associated with personal determination (243). Thisadvances the enquiry as to why people are actively engaged in thepractice of self-determination.

The explanation of this phenomena is that all the people in thesociety have the responsibility of participating in governance, whichthey can practice either by being directly involved in policy makingor choosing representative to do the same on their behalf. In orderto fully realize this practice, which itself is a paradigm ofdemocracy, the people have to be treated equally. No one should havean unfair chance of participating in governance than the other.Equality therefore has a close relationship to democracy.

Interms of modern democracy, the above argument is supported by theproponents of democracy. According to Christiano, modern democracypostulates that all citizens are supposed to be free to take part inpublic discourse (246). By doing this, they will be in a position tomake their governments respond to their ideas and values. All this isdone in the hope that respective governments will act in ways thatdeliberate on the citizens’ ideas and values. Additionally, thegovernments are supposed to cater to every individual’s citizensand values equally, without favoring a few. Wilson says that thisconstitutes the application of the constitutions’ clauses onfreedom of expression, which are closely related to the formulationof the principles of democracy (24). Therefore, the moderndemocracies have to “regard their citizens, insofar as they takepart in the public discourse, as equal and autonomous persons”(Post 28). This justifies the thinking of modern political scientiststhat the essence of democracy roots from its attitude towardsupholding social equality, and not something that rises from theopinions and ideologies of a certain few individuals, withoutconsidering others’ divine rights. Therefore, it is the essence ofdemocracy to substitute one-sidedness with mutual respect of socialequality.

Thepostulation of democracy and equality

Allthe above arguments have substantially deduced the main postulatesregarding the relationship between democracy and equality. As shown,major arguments by political scientist and socialists assert thatdemocracy requires equal treatment of the persons in the society tobe affected, insofar as they are considered to be autonomouscontributors to the process of self-governance (Tronto 67). Postdescribes this form of equality as a fundamental element forachieving democracy, mainly because, it manifests itself in thebroader description of democracy (28). Additionally, democracy workstowards reconciling self-determination of the members of the societyand that of the state and government which rules over them. As such,democratic government would consider every individual as autonomouscitizens, one who is the subject of democratic governance. In thisregard, every citizen is equal. This goes to the scope that shouldthe state treat a part of its citizens unequally, for instance, byallowing others have more access to state resources or control alarger share of the state’s resources than others, it becomesheteronomous with respect to the individuals who are treatedunequally. Therefore, a state loses its claim to democraticlegitimacy by violating the principles of equality.

Inpublic discourse, the main function of communication is notdecision-making, but empowering the citizens to take part in publicopinion in a manner that allows them to feel confident in otherpeople’s opinions. Christiano asserts that just as equality invoting is a measure of equality of influence on major governancedecisions, equality in the participation in public discourse is asequally important (254). This is because the influence on publicdiscussions is a function of convincing others to listen to one’sviews. As such, this presents the state with an opportunity toinfluence equality in public discourse, given that it has all thetools of controlling the manner in which its institutions evaluateeveryone’s ideas. As such, all these efforts have to be measured tobe intrinsically desirable when they are performed by the state, andthe entire society has to be treated with equality in all democraticprocesses. This is yet another critical relationship betweendemocracy and equality.

Aristotle’sexplains the relationship between democracy and equality byexplaining the notion of justice. According to Aristotle, people havedifferent notions of justice, which arise from their misconceptionsof equality, and the purpose of equality in the society’s democracy(Wilson 198). However, what is agreed amongst members of a democraticsociety is that democratic regimes have to respect their people’sfreedom, which is a show of respect for equality. As such, everydemocratic government ensures that all the citizens are equal in allfronts, be it in the public discourse or access to state resources.As such, Aristotle says that in a democratic society, the people areconsidered to be equal in merit and justice. Additionally, he clearsthe air about the perception of oligarchic people who mistakenmajority rule as inequality. Given that democracy allows for freedecision-making, it is only logical to have the majority to form thegovernment. As such, a relationship is created between democracy andequality.


This paper presents the relationship between democracy and equality.By defining the meaning and underlying principles of both, the groundis created for constructing the relationship and further evaluatinghow each borrows various elements from the other. The paperestablishes the conceptions of people’s interests and how theycompare, in an effort to establish the relationship between democracyand equality through the principles of individual interests. As such,it is shown that the only reasonable implementation of the principlesof individual interests in a democracy is through equality in anumber of fronts such as distribution of resources, decision-makingand public discourse. Additionally, Aristotle’s explanation of thenotion of justice further demonstrates the relationship betweendemocracy and equality. All the arguments presented in the paper showthat there is more to similarity than the contrast in definingdemocracy and equality. By considering a number of social theoriesand political ideologies, the paper clearly demonstrates therelationship between democracy and equality. In fact, the paper haspostulated that democracy can work predominantly in the contemporaryworld due to its close association to equality. As postulated above,the construction of political activism in a democracy shows thatdemocracy lacks an intrinsic value as most of its aspects developthrough people’s activities. In a democratic process, a majority ofpeople endorse or follow a certain policy, which they have developedthrough a representative process, which promotes the instrumentalvalue of democracy. In fact, the relationship between democracy andequality shows that democracy is treasured insofar as it instantiatesmotifs such as liberty and justice.

Works Cited

Christiano, Thomas. &quotThesignificance of public deliberation.&quot&nbspDeliberativedemocracy: Essays on reason and politics&nbsp243(1997): 249. Print.

Mansbridge, Jane, et al. &quotAsystemic approach to deliberative democracy.&quotDeliberativesystems&nbsp(2012):1-26. Print.

Post, Robert C. “Democracy andequality.” FacultyScholarship Series. Paper177. Print.

Tronto, Joan C.&nbspCaringdemocracy: markets, equality, and justice.NYU Press, 2013. Print.

Wilson, James Lindley. &quotDemocracyand Equality of Political Status.&quot&nbspAPSA2012 Annual Meeting Paper.2012. Print.

Wilson, Philip A. &quotDeliberativeDemocracy.&quot&nbspTheEncyclopedia of Political Thought&nbsp(2015).Print.