The Wrath of Thrasymachus

Value Irrationality and the Failures of Deliberative Democracy

in Theoria
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I present a critique of deliberative democratic theory by arguing that deliberative and discourse-based theories of democracy suffer from what I term 'deliberative failures', which are the result of cognitive distortions of the capacity of individuals to articulate reasonable claims. I call value irrationality that condition where individuals express arguments and receive information biased by certain values and value-orientations that remain untouched by deliberative encounters. Values are irrational when any agent becomes unable to call them into question and when they come to bias the way we process information about the world as well as our own arguments. This results in what I term 'epistemological warping' or the systemic biasing of our epistemic capacities to evaluate information, the arguments of others, inhibiting our knowledge about the world, ourselves and others. I put forward an alternative direction for democratic theorists to move, back to the questions of social structure, forms of socialisation and their ability to shape the value-orientations of individuals.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory