Intelligent Democracy: Answering the New Democratic Scepticism

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Whether it is due to Donald Trump, Brexit, or the rise of populism, many people have started to question if democracy is really the best political system. Complaints about ignorant voters, irrational public debate, or disconnected politicians have led a growing number to suggest that democracies are destined to make bad decisions and that we need to look for alternatives. In Intelligent Democracy, political theorist Jonathan Benson rejects this new democratic scepticism. He argues that democracies can make effective use of knowledge, engage in experimentation, utilise diversity, motivate decisions towards the common good, and that they can do all these things better than their rivals. The book therefore shows why we should value democracy, not only because it treats us all equally, but also because it is intelligent.

At the core of the book is the first systemic account of democracy’s epistemic value. While it is common to focus on the faults of any one democratic body, Benson argues that democracy represents a much broader network of institutions which work together to produce a system which is more intelligent than any of its parts. The book examines how elections, deliberative assemblies, random sortition, and the open public sphere can be best connected, and offers innovative new proposals for improving our democratic systems. Through this approach, Benson shows that democracy is superior to regimes of epistocracy and political meritocracy which aim to empower the knowledgeable and exclude the ignorant, as well as commonly overlooked proposals for granting greater powers to free markets or polycentric governance. Drawing on work from political science, philosophy, and economics, Intelligent Democracy produces a unique epistemic justification of democratic politics and a robust answer to democracy’s critics.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages272
ISBN (Print)9780197767283
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jul 2024


  • democratic theory
  • epistemic democracy
  • deliberative democracy
  • democratic systems
  • critics of democracy
  • epistocracy
  • political meritocracy
  • free markets
  • polycentricity
  • sortition


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