Critics of liberalism and even some liberal theorists themselves have criticized a liberal emphasis on autonomy, because they associate autonomy with self sufficiency. That association reinforces the worst aspects of atomistic individualism: social isolation, insulation from the views of others, and a rejection of society's values and interests. But the association of autonomy with self-sufficiency is uncalled for; those who see that association are mistaken, for self-sufficiency represents not a fulfillment of autonomy but the abandonment of it. Autonomy, it is argued, has a social nature: It not only develops through sociality, but it also requires sociality for its exercise. In short, to be autonomous one must know one is autonomous; to know one is autonomous requires giving an account to others of the reasons for a decision or action. The social nature of autonomy may incline theorists to see persons as communitarian or socially situated selves. But communitarians such as Charles Taylor find the self defined in part by communal boundaries and thus see them as context-dependent. Autonomy is bounded by language, not community. It is both context-free and context-related, but not context-dependent. Liberal theorists who champion autonomy should therefore abandon any notions of selves as social atoms or isolates and build liberalism on the implications of autonomy's social nature. Part of those implications is that social institutions that foster and exercise autonomy must involve dialogue or communicative exchange. The most important and effective institutions of that kind are those of direct democracy.