Democratic contractarianism aspires to unite two previously unconnected strands in political philosophy: firstly, a democratic commitment to a social world in which citizens yield equal power; and secondly, a contractarian commitment to a strictly prudential justification of political morality.

I argue that the commitment to democratic equality is theoretically unmotivated and risks limiting the applicability of the view to societies in which equal bargaining power already obtains. I also argue that the view cannot account for why a political order governed by democratic contractarianism will be stable over time. Ultimately I will suggest that these problems are traceable to a fundamental incompatibility between the two dimensions of democratic contractarianism. The view can be democratic, and it can be contractarian, but it cannot be both.

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