Torture, secrecy, and democracy : balancing security and publicity in republicanism

Date

2011-09-12

Authors

Shepherd, Meaghan

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Abstract

Debates about the use of torture in order to protect democracy have become increasingly prevalent in the wake of September 11, 2001 and the war on terror. This thesis examines pro-torture arguments based on considerations of national security. Recently these arguments have had the most traction when advanced within the republican mode of democratic theory. I argue that torture undermines democratic legitimacy because of the secrecy it involves when used for interrogational purposes. Publicity about acts committed in the name of the demos is an essential aspect of democratic legitimacy. For interrogational torture to be effective, major features of its use must be kept secret. This secrecy is incompatible with classical republicanism and the theory of collective responsibility it entails because it interferes with the ability of the people to participate meaningfully in democracy, which is an essential feature of republicanism.

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Keywords

republicanism, torture, democratic theory, security, representation

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