Review of Hélène Landemore, Democratic Reason

Critics of democracy have long argued that the people are not competent to govern themselves. Political issues are often difficult to understand and address. Making good political decisions would thus seem to require a high level of knowledge and skill. Yet democracy gives decision-making power to individuals with no spe-cial political expertise. Insofar as the quality of political decisions matters, democracy's advocates face the challenge of defending its epistemic credentials. Helene Landemore's Democratic Reason presents a deep and original argu-ment for democracy's ability to produce better decisions than rivals. The argu-ment builds on research that aims to show that cognitive diversity—roughly, "the existence of different ways of seeing the world" (5)—is at least as important as individual ability for a group's collective problem-solving and predictive abilities. 

Published in: Ethics
2014 Vol. 124, No. 2 Pages 426-431