In the history of modernity, ethical conflicts, understood as conflicts between ideas of the good life for humans, have often been seen as a source of social divisiveness and as a threat to individual freedom. I sketch a model of pluralist politics in which encounters between diverging or conflicting ideas of the good life are seen as strengthening rather than threatening social bonds and as conducive rather than hostile to the formation of autonomous agency. The key element of the proposed model is a constitutively intersubjective conception of autonomy as ethically self-determining agency. The identity formation of human subjects as autonomous agents is construed as a process of reflective engagement with questions of the good life by way of agonistic intersubjective encounters. It is tied to the exercise of authority by, and within, social institutions. The model rests on a crucial distinction between non-authoritarian and authoritarian modes of authority. Pluralist politics, when understood along these lines, is at once “collective self-rule” and “rule by laws"”, keeping the two core principles of democracy in productive tension. This provides a basis for critique of political movements such as populism when they assert one of the principles at the expense of the other.