Death of popular sovereignty? Reflections on our (post) democratic condition

  • M. R. A. N. Costa Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina
Palavras-chave: democracy, globalization, neoliberalism, political equality, popular sovereignty


Death of popular sovereignty? Reflections on our (post) democratic condition

In this article I try to answer a specific question: is it possible to recover the value and determinant role of the concept of popular sovereignty, in the actual condition of contemporary democracies? Assuming that it is still possible (and desirable) to recover this ideal and regulative principle, I want to explore the conditions that are available today in order to do so. That implies, first and foremost, to critically expose the eminent dangers brought by globalization and the new neoliberal imperialism. These put into question the set of fundamental democratic aspirations of freedom, equality and social justice. Under this light, to question about the conditions of possibility for popular sovereignty means to questions about the conditions of possibility for democracy itself. We will only be capable of recuing democracy if we redefine: a) the relationship between individual and community; b) the relationship between democratic nations and non-democratic global organizations; c) the space where democracy should take place (from nation-state to local communities). This article has four moments. First, I offer a brief reading of the concept of popular sovereignty in modernity, having as main reference Rousseau. In the second moment I characterize contemporary democratic constellation in its dialogue between Bernard Manin (1997) and Nadia Urbinati (2006). In the third moment I focus on the tension between democratic ideals and neoliberal hegemony. Finally,
I look into the conditions of possibility for rescuing democracy and popular sovereignty.

democracy; globalization; neoliberalism; political equality; popular sovereignty

Biografia do Autor

M. R. A. N. Costa, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina

Doutorada em Ciência política pela New School for Social Research. Professora Visitante, Departamento de Filosofia, UFSC


AVRITZER, Leonardo, “Democracy beyond aggregation: the participatory dimension of public deliberation” in Journal of Public Deliberation, vol. 8, iss.2, article 10, 2012. Available at:

AVRITZER, Leonardo, Participatory Institutions in Democratic Brazil, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2009.

BARBER, Benjamin, “Shrunken Sovereign: Consumerism, Globalization, and American Emptiness” in World Affairs, Spring 2008, available at (accessed in July 5, 2014)

BARBER, Benjamin, If Mayors ruled the world, Yale University Press, 2013.

BARBER, Benjamin, Strong Democracy, University of California Press, 2003.

HARVEY, David, A Brief history of neoliberalism, Oxford University Press, Nova Iorque, 2011.

MANIN, Bernard, The Principles of Representative Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997

NUNES DA COSTA, Marta, ”How participatory budgeting changes the meanings and practices of citizenship” in Ethica – International Journal for Moral Philosophy, vol. 12, n.2, pp. 302- 320, 2013(a)

NUNES DA COSTA, Marta, Modelos Democráticos, Arraes Editores, Belo Horizonte, 2013(b)

ROUSSEAU, J.J., The Social Contract, Penguin Books, London, 1968.

SIMPSON, Matthew, ‘A Paradox of Sovereignty in Rousseau’s Social Contract’ in Journal of Moral Philosophy, vo.3 (1), 2006, pp.45-56

URBINATI, Nadia, Representative Democracy, Chicago University Press, Chicago, 2006.

Como Citar
Costa, M. R. A. N. (2015). Death of popular sovereignty? Reflections on our (post) democratic condition. Aufklärung: Revista De Filosofia, 2(1), p.11-26.