DAVID JACOBSON AND GALYA BENARIEH RUFFER
While our understandings of democracy have evolved within a particular conception of citizenship and nationhood, the emergence of new global structures, institutions, and modes of governance necessitate recognition that democracy, as traditionally understood, is not adequate to conceptualize current modes of political engagement. Note is often made of the global expansion of human rights, generally coupled with the assumption that this expansion is synonymous with the spread of democracy. However, we need to recognize that the expansion of rights, domestically and internationally, is associated with a partial but significant shift in the mode of political engagement, from democracy or republicanism to the principle of the individual as "agent." The "decline" of the nation-state, one could argue, is symptomatic of an even more dramatic but hidden revolution, the emergence of agency.
Indeed, issues of agency have supplemented and in significant part supplanted dedication to the democratic and republican process. Agency concerns the ability of the individual or the group to act as "initiatory" and a "self-reliant" actor and to be an active participant in determining one's life, including determination of social, political, cultural, ethnic, religious, and economic ends. 1 The foundational mechanism of agency is the dense web of legal rights and restraints that are mediated or adjudicated by judicial and quasi-judicial and administrative bodies of different kinds. In contrast to the past, no area of life today is beyond the potential reach of the law-its tentacles, for good and bad, reach into every sphere of life from families to corporations to nation-states. Individual access to the development of a dense web of legal rights and restraints has become the mechanism of individual "self-determination, " not the civic sphere or the public square.
Judicial and administrative mechanisms, as opposed to the legislature, become central in this process. And, indeed, law as regulation has expanded massively in the last three to four decades (an expansion itself an upward loop in a century-long expansion), including international law. Such law is "expressed" through judicial, quasi-judicial, and administrative bodies. The European Union, in its judicial and administrative organization, is an especially notable example of this phenomenon.