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On Mouffe's Agonism

Why It Is Not a Refutation of Consensus

George Vasilev

Chantal Mouffe's conceptualization of a deliberatively forged consensus as a hegemony and her assertion that adversarial politics best nurtures the conditions of freedom have had a profound influence on contemporary democratic thought. This article takes a critical view of this trend, arguing that a norm of consensus is a very precondition, rather than impediment, for the kind of pluralistic democracy Mouffe and other agonists wish to promote. It is asserted that Mouffe's dehistoricized refutation of consensus lacks causal or explanatory relevance to how concrete actors embedded in empirical situations relate to one another and that the very preparedness to find something acceptable about another is at the heart of what it means to treat others justly.

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Tetsuki Tamura and Yasuko H. Kobayashi

This article attempts to view the idea of a “crisis of democracy” through a lens of individualization of the society. As the consequence of the impact of the individualization on existing liberal democracy, new forms of niggling democracy have been emerging. This article maps varieties of such emerging democracies in contemporary Japanese society.

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Jeff Jackson

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.

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Maurizio Passerin d'Entrèves

This article examines the question of justice in democratic constitutional states from the standpoint of a theory of deliberative democracy. Its aim is to show that the validity of a conception of justice and the legitimacy of political institutions and public policies based upon it can best be defended on the basis of a normative theory of deliberative democracy. This theory, I shall argue, is superior to the two main normative models of justification that appeal to the ideal of neutrality (Rawls, Larmore, Nagel) or to the ideal of perfectionism (Raz, Galston).

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Judith Squires

Feminist critiques of deliberative democracy have focused on the abstraction, impartiality and rationality of mainstream accounts of deliberation. This paper explores the claim, common to many of these critiques, that these features are problematic because they are gendered, and that a more women-friendly account of democracy would embrace corporeality, contextuality and the affective. While acknowledging the merit of such a claim, the paper nonetheless suggests that the pursuit of social justice and democratic inclusion actually leads many feminists to embrace a modified account of deliberative democracy, albeit in a modified account form. This can be explained by the dialogical conception of impartiality offered by theories of deliberative democracy. The paper suggests that the embrace of deliberative democracy by feminist theorists is a positive move, to be more widely acknowledged. Moreover, once acknowledged, feminists have much to offer deliberative democrats in terms of considering what the pursuit of dialogic impartiality might entail. If conceived as demanding both a 'lack of bias' and 'inclusivity', attention needs to be focused squarely on the issue of inclusion, and the institutional and material conditions for securing inclusion in deliberation.

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Daniele Santoro and Joseph Lacey

Alessandro Ferrara, The Democratic Horizon: Hyperpluralism and the Renewal of Political Liberalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 251 pp., ISBN: 9781107035515

Jane Mansbridge and John Parkinson, eds., Deliberative Systems: Deliberative Democracy at the Large Scale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 204 pp., ISBN: 9781107678910

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Reflecting on Fifty Years of Democratic Theory

Carole Pateman in Conversation with Graham Smith

Carole Pateman and Graham Smith

Carole Pateman reflects on her fifty years of scholarship in conversation with Graham Smith. The discussion focuses particular attention on Pateman’s work on participatory democracy and considers her contributions to debates on political obligation, feminism, basic income, and deliberative democracy.

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Jean-Paul Gagnon and Mark Chou

This general issue of Democratic Theory begins with an important contribution by George Vasilev (La Trobe University) that reflects on Chantal Mouffe’s notion of democratic agonism. Mouffe has, primarily as part of her critique of deliberative democracy, asserted that consensus necessarily creates exclusion. What is important is that democratic dialogue remains open-ended. For her this means that democrats should view themselves as adversaries rather than antagonists who bring discussions to a close. Vasilev critiques Mouffe’s assertion by arguing that she holds a one-sided understanding of consensus that creates a less credible form of adversarial politics. By crafting a “norm of consensus”, Vasilev thus demonstrates that consensus formation can ensure the very condition of democratic freedom itself. In doing this, Vasilev’s argument brings a fresh perspective to ongoing debates in deliberative and agonistic democracy.

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Monique Deveaux

A central claim made on behalf of deliberative democracy is that it can foster the inclusion and empowerment of ordinary citizens in democratic political life. But ideal structures of deliberation tell us remarkably little about how much real

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William R. Caspary

by the flourishing of deliberative democratic theory. The balance needs to be restored. Like Jackson, I advocate participatory democracy and locate Dewey within that approach in contrast to deliberative democracy theory. I am struck by the closeness