Some of the liveliest philosophical debates in contemporary democratic theory address two issues: (1) Why is democracy desirable? (2) What institutions are needed to realize the democratic ideal? In response to the first question, instrumentalists maintain that democracy is justified only if it produces good results; non-instrumentalists take into account, in addition, the values that democratic procedures realize in themselves. As for the second question, the debate concerns the form that democratic institutions should have to realize the democratic ideal (majority vote, deliberative, or contestatory). The purpose of this paper is to offer a critical presentation of these debates.