Versita

THE SECOND DIMENSION OF DEMOCRACY: THE PEOPLE AND THEIR CONSTITUTION

Joel I. Colón-Rios
Keywords: Democratic Legitimacy, Ronald Dworkin, Jeremy Waldron, Constitutional Reform, Constitution Making, Constituent Power ,

Abstract

This paper argues that procedural and substantive approaches to democracy fail to address the question of the democratic legitimacy of a constitutional regime. Taking Ronald Dworkin and Jeremy Waldron as a point of departure, the paper contends that procedural and substantive democrats approach democracy at the level of daily governance as if it exhausted the democratic ideal. As a result, they not only ignore democracy at the level of the fundamental laws but the question of democratic legitimacy altogether. After examining the under-theorized distinction between these two dimensions of the democratic ideal, the paper builds on the work of Sheldon Wolin and argues that democracy at the level of the fundamental laws should be conceived as a moment in the life of a polity, the moment in which ordinary citizens deliberate and exercise their power to (re)constitute the juridical order and legitimate their constitution. By way of conclusion, the article considers some of the mechanisms contained in new Latin American constitutions as examples of devices that might facilitate the practice of the second dimension of democracy.