Despite being fundamental to democracy, the normative concept of the people, i.e. thedemos, is highly unclear. This article clarifies the legitimacy of the demos’ boundaries bystructuring the debate into three strains of justification: first, normative membershipprinciples; second, its democratic functionality and the necessity of cohesion for thisessential function; and third, a procedural understanding of the demos. It will be shown thatnormative principles can only justify its expansion towards the ideal of an unboundeddemos. On the other hand, the democratic function of the demos can be understood as acriterion for its restriction. This, however, is only possible on the basis of an existing polityand not for the initial constitution of the demos. Consequently, a legitimate demos has totake both inclusionary and exclusionary tendencies into account. These tendencies need tobe weighed against each other in the democratic process, which leads to a fundamentallyprocedural understanding of the legitimacy of the demos.
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