The All-Affected Principle and the Question of Asymmetry

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As a solution to the boundary problem, the question of who should take part in making democratic decisions, the all-affected principle has gained widespread support. An unexplored issue in relation to the all-affected principle is whether there is an asymmetry between being affected negatively and positively. Is it the case that only being negatively affected, and not positively affected, by a decision generates a claim to inclusion under the all-affected principle? I call this the question of asymmetry. Some answer the question of asymmetry affirmatively. I believe they are wrong and argue, instead, that we must answer this question by looking at the reasons underlying the all-affected principle. I identify two main reasons that have been proposed to underlie the all-affected principle—(1) the opportunity for interest protection and (2) self-government—and show why both of them entail that answering the question of asymmetry affirmatively is unfounded. The upshot is that both being affected negatively and positively by a decision should generate a claim to inclusion on the all-affected principle. This makes a difference for democratic decision making on contemporary issues such as immigration, climate, and welfare policy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Pages (from-to)718-728
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • all-affected principle
  • asymmetry
  • boundary problem
  • democracy
  • immigration


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