Deliberative democracy is a growing branch of democratic theory. It suggests understanding and assessing democracy in terms of the quality of communication among citizens, politicians, as well as between citizens and politicians. In this interview, drawing on his extensive research on deliberative practice within and beyond parliaments, André Bächtiger reflects on the development of the field over the last two decades, the relationship between normative theory and empirical research, and the prospects for practicing deliberation in populist times.
Taking Stock and Looking Ahead - Selen A. Ercan with André Bächtiger
Selen A. Ercan and André Bächtiger
Bringing the System Back In
Michael J. Jensen
The current crisis of democracy today is a crisis in the steering capacities of political systems as conventional representative institutions are seen as increasingly unresponsive. This has engendered a crisis of legitimacy as governing processes that affect daily life are seen as increasingly out of reach for citizens who find themselves with little or no influence over government administration, and increasingly globalized flows of markets and communication that belie the control of sovereign borders. The return to deliberative democracy as a response to the crisis has turned toward systems thinking within deliberation. Although this literature has primarily retained its normative language, approaching the crisis of democracy in terms of its empirical steering capacities is necessary to connect deliberation with its democratic aspirations. In addition to the language of steering capacities, these elements include an empirically-grounded account of the operation of power and authority as well the role of rhetoric as central rather than operating in the shadow of deliberation.
Stephen Elstub and Jean-Paul Gagnon
Editors' introduction to the interview: Stephen Elstub articulates that deliberative democracy, as a theory, can be seen as having gone through various distinct generations. The first generation was a period where the normative values and the justifications for deliberative democracy were set out. This prompted criticism from difference democrats who saw the exclusion of other forms of communication by the reification of reason in deliberation as a serious shortcoming of the theory. This in part prompted the growth of the second generation of deliberative democracy, which began to focus more on the theory's operability. These theorizations, from the mostly 1990s and early 2000s, have led to the third generation of the theory—one embodied by the empirical turn. Elstub uses this genealogy as a foundation from which to argue that the current focus of deliberative democracy is on implementing deliberative systems rather than only deliberative institutions and this could potentially represent a fourth generation of deliberative democracy.
In this article I argue for a model of Deweyan 'critical pragmatism' as a therapeutic alternative to traditional models of deliberative democracy that have been crippled by their inheritance of the threadbare liberal/communitarian debate. By orienting my discussion here with respect to the most serious radical democratic challenges to deliberative democracy, I hope to show how Deweyan critical pragmatism may help us develop new approaches to the theory and practice of deliberation that are both more attuned to power relations than traditional models and make more inventive use of everyday life to pursue more meaningful deliberative opportunities for citizens.
Nancy L. Thomas
Across the U.S.A, everyday citizens, civic leaders, policy makers, and educators are experimenting with inclusive, deliberative approaches to addressing social, economic, and political issues. Some academics and civic leaders describe this renewal in citizen engagement as a movement, a significant, transformative shift in the way we interact with each other to solve public problems, strengthen communities and 'do' democracy. Colleges and universities need to take stock of the movement towards a more deliberative democracy and adapt their programmes and activities to fit what democratic societies need today. Many campuses already offer programmes in inclusive dialogue, deliberative public reasoning, justice and other Constitutional values, democratic leadership and conflict management. Many faculty members use democratic teaching methods. These can serve as helpful models. For all colleges and universities, the challenge is to get to scale, to teach all students - not just a few in particular disciplines or co-curricular activities - to serve as effective citizens in an increasingly diverse, deliberative democracy.
Gerald F. Gaus
This essay analyses optimal voting rules for one form of deliberative democracy. Drawing on public choice analysis, it is argued that (i) the voting rule that best institutionalises deliberative democracy is a type of a supermajority rule. Deliberative democracy is also committed to (ii) the standard neutrality condition according to which if x votes are enough to select alternative A, x votes must be enough to select not-A. Taken together, these imply that deliberative democracy will often be indeterminate. This result shows that deliberative democracy is ill-equipped to provide guidance as to how actual political disputes are to be legitimately resolved.
Procedure and Substance in Direct Democracy
“Nothing … could be more antithetical than deliberative democracy and referendums.” John Parkinson, “Beyond ‘Technique’” As the use of popular votes for making political decisions becomes more common around the world, the question of the democratic
The Role of the Judiciary in a Deliberative System
Donald Bello Hutt
This article examines systemic approaches in deliberative democracy and, within that context, rejects judicial supremacy, which is the finality with which courts of law authoritatively interpret constitutions. It concludes that, notwithstanding the
A Response to Caspary
also takes a somewhat different view on the relationship of participatory democracy to deliberative democracy (which I present as largely different theories), stating that he seeks “to clarify [participatory democracy’s] continuities with deliberative
This article challenges the prevalent interpretation of John Dewey as a forefather of deliberative democracy, and shows how Dewey's theory can help turn democratic theory toward participatory democracy, which is widely seen as having been incorporated by deliberative democracy. I argue that Dewey would find deliberative principles to be abstracting from our unequal social conditions by attempting to bracket the unequal social statuses that individuals bring with them to the deliberation. Dewey traces the deficiencies of current political debate to these unequal social conditions, and he thus claims that democratic theorizing should focus on enacting effective plans for overcoming social inequality, plans that may require nondeliberative practices that compel concessions from advantaged social interests. Deliberative democrats have increasingly aimed to account for such practices, but I claim that participatory democrats can draw on Dewey to illustrate how their theory can more comfortably accommodate these practices that directly attack inequality than can deliberative democracy.