Is the one who wears the shoe the best shoemaker? A Deweyan epistemic justification of participatory democracy


John Dewey’s answer to the elitist criticism of democracy developed in the early twentieth century partly relies on an epistemic justification of democracy. Indeed, he considers democracy as the best way to solve social problems of injustice and domination. More precisely, Dewey argues that only a deepening of democratic participation can generate the social knowledge required for social transformations. This paper claims that this participatory account provides very relevant epistemological arguments against the epistocratic tendencies of current democratic theories and practices. Meanwhile, the paper identifies in Dewey’s arguments for participatory democracy a prefiguration of current radical epistemologies that elaborate connections between epistemology, social philosophy, and democratic theory.

  • democracy
  • participation
  • citizen competence
  • experts
  • pragmatism
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