The Relationship Between Freedom and Agency in the Measurement of Democracy

Stream: Panel 79 - Comparative Politics: Theorising and Measuring Democracy 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm


This paper presents an examination of the manner in which freedom is conceptualised in existing measures of democracy. The examination finds that existing measures of democracy inadequately conceptualise freedom, by only employing minimalist definitions of freedom. In particular, the paper finds that measures tend to employ the definition of freedom as non-interference. The paper discusses the implications which arise from using the non-interference based definition of freedom, suggesting that using this definition results in an inadequate evaluation of citizen agency. It is proposed that because the key political unit in democracy is the individual citizen, citizen agency is a core component of democracy. Hence, the paper argues that the failure to adequately measure agency undermines certain aspects of the evaluation of democracy in the world. The paper concludes that the measurement of democracy can be improved by paying more attention to the features of democracy which make it a normatively desirable political system.


Jeremiah Brown (Presenter), The University of Melbourne
Jeremiah is a PhD candidate in the University of Melbourne School of Social and Political Science. His thesis examines the manner in which the concept of freedom is incorporated into the measurement of democracy. His research interests centre around the intersection of political theory, philosophy, and quantitative methods, and he is primarily concerned with the extent to which theorists can help to improve measurement practice.