The process of globalization, which exacerbates the pluralism and complexity associated with modernity, and an unauthorized delegation of power, challenges the standard model of representative democracy, in which the parliament is seen as the embodiment of the will of the people. However, "the people" is never really present to decide. The representatives are elected and the notions of the common good or the public interest that they espouse are inaccurate, at best. No legal form and no actual assembly can claim legitimacy per se - as expressions of la volonté générale. Thus, an alternative conceptualization of the democratic process is required.
In order to get to the modern idea of democratic politics, the normative content of the democratic constitutional state is spelled out as this is understood in the discourse-theoretical conception of deliberative democracy.
This conception is a viable alternative to the standard model. It relinquishes nationality as requirement for democracy. In the discourse-theoretical perspective, popular sovereignty is de-substantiated and located in the very procedures that govern law and decision making. The parliamentary principle cannot by itself ensure democratic legitimacy and has to be supplemented with procedures that secure individual rights and public debate. A threefold model of political power then emerges: social, communicative and administrative power. This perspective provides us with a rather complex set of criteria for assessing democracy today which, however, are needed not only for normative reasons, but also because of the differentiated access structure that exist in modern welfare states.