Book Review: Democratic Equality, by James Lindley Wilson

Published date01 June 2021
Date01 June 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 517
The Perpetual Immigrant and the Limits of Athenian Democracy is an
interesting book worthy of careful consideration. Its fresh readings of an
impressively wide range of ancient texts have much to offer political scien-
tists, classicists, and historians. And its effort to recover an important strain
of ancient political thought, and to reconnect it with some of the most press-
ing questions in our contemporary democracies, is surely laudable and timely.
1. Mogens H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes
(Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999), 22.
2. See, e.g., Mark Gifford, “Dramatic Dialectic in Republic Book 1,” in Oxford
Studies in Ancient Philosophy, ed. David Sedley (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2001), XX:35–106; and Gabriel Danzig, “Plato’s Charmides as a Political
Act: Apologetics and the Promotion of Ideology,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine
Studies 53 (2013), 486–519.
Democratic Equality, by James Lindley Wilson. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton
University Press, 2019, 307 pp.
Reviewed by: Samuel Bagg, Nuffield College and Department of Politics and
International Relations, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.
DOI: 10.1177/0090591720968768
Democratic theory is a highly diverse field, ranging across history, philoso-
phy, critical theory, comparative politics, and law. Nevertheless, democratic
theorists typically share an overlapping set of questions. What is the value of
competitive elections and other key democratic institutions? How might our
democratic ambitions stretch beyond such basic procedures? And what do
we do when these democratic demands seem to conflict? James Wilson’s
Democratic Equality aims to address these questions through a novel concep-
tion of political equality in terms of “appropriate consideration” of the views
of all citizens.
Planted firmly in the tradition of analytic political philosophy, Wilson’s
arguments reflect the influence of several of the most prominent trends that
have shaped that field over the last several decades. One is the turn toward
relational egalitarianism, which has only accelerated since Elizabeth

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