The Theory of Democratic Antinomies and the Identification of Value Trade-Offs in Political Practice

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

The Theory of Democratic Antinomies and the Identification of Value Trade-Offs in Political Practice

  • Oliver Hidalgo Department of Political Science, University of Münster, Germany

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Abstract:  In theory, the idea of democracy consists of several insoluble contradictions, aporias, and conflicts. In practice, democracy demands an effective balancing of its essentially opposing principles and values in order to preserve an authentic character as well as to avoid its inherent self-destructive tendencies. In this regard, the concept of value trade-offs promises a heuristic tool to grasp both the analytical and normative impact of a political theory which takes the complexity of democracy seriously. Proceeding from this, the contribution will demonstrate to what extent the conceptualisation of democratic antinomies and the notion of value trade-offs can be seen as a kind of communicating vessel. The article’s general argument is that democracy is defined by several antinomies that are irreducible in theory and therefore require trade-offs in political practice. Moreover, it will discuss three relevant issue areas to suggest the approach’s empirical relevance and to prove the existence of value trade-offs as an operating benchmark for the legitimacy and consolidation of democratic processes on the one hand but also for their shortcomings and risks on the other. Correspondingly, the article concerns the antinomic relationships between freedom and security, economic growth and sustainability, and finally, democracy and populism to underpin the general perception that the success of democratic institutions first and foremost depends on the balance of the necessarily conflicting principles of democracy.

Keywords:  antinomies; democracy; economic growth; freedom; populism; security; sustainability; value trade-offs

Published:   25 November 2019


© Oliver Hidalgo. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.