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Deliberative Democracy

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.

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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.

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Deliberative Democracy

Taking Stock and Looking Ahead - Selen A. Ercan with André Bächtiger

Selen A. Ercan and André Bächtiger

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.

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Practitioner’s Note

MASS LBP and Long-Form Deliberation in Canada

Spencer McKay and Peter MacLeod

Deliberative forums, such as citizens’ assemblies or reference panels, are one institutionalization of deliberative democracy that has become increasingly commonplace in recent years. MASS LBP is a pioneer in designing and facilitating such long-form deliberative processes in Canada. This article provides an overview of the company’s civic lottery and reference panel process, notes several distinctive features of MASS LBP that are relevant to addressing challenges to democratic deliberation, and outlines possible areas for future research in deliberative democracy applied in both private and public settings.

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Sectarianism and Recognition in Iraq

From Consociationalism to Deliberation?

Nicolas Pirsoul

This article uses the theory of recognition to analyze sectarian conflicts in Iraq. After describing the sectarian and historical background of contemporary Iraqi politics, the article critiques the implementation of consociationalism and policies influenced by liberal multiculturalism in deeply divided societies. It argues that these policies lead to a dangerous reification of identities. The article argues that a progressive implementation of deliberative democracy practices could improve identity-related issues in Iraq and explains how democratic practices are legitimized by the most influential Islamic religious figure in Iraq.

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Deliberating Bodies

Democracy, Identification, and Embodiment

Amanda Machin

The significance of embodiment has long been overlooked in theories of deliberative democracy. Deliberation is characterized by inclusive and rational discussion that functions in an allegedly neutral and abstract space. This article draws attention to the bodies between which political interaction always occurs. Bodies have important yet unpredictable effects for political interaction and can extend or disorder the careful conscious conversation invoked by deliberative democrats. Identities are reproduced by bodies, and bodies may conform to or transform their identifications. Using Merleau-Ponty's notion of habitual knowledge, the article argues that bodies provide limitations, capacities, and opportunities for democratic politics. At the same time, bodies and their identifications are themselves transformed through deliberation and other types of political experience.

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The Deliberative Potential of Facultative Referendums

Procedure and Substance in Direct Democracy

Alice el-Wakil

“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

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Dethroning Deliberation

A Response to Caspary

Jeff Jackson

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

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Participation without Deliberation

The Crisis of Venezuelan Democracy

Nicole Curato

The legacy of Hugo Chavez is contentious. Some lament the deterioration of Venezuelan democracy from one of Latin America's most stable political systems to a populist authoritarian regime. Others celebrate Chavez's participatory project of institutionalizing structures for community-driven development, redistributing oil wealth through welfare policies, and creating a political party closely linked to mass movements. This article provides an alternative assessment of Venezuela's democratic quality by drawing on deliberative democratic theory. I argue that Chavez's participatory project is incomplete because it fails to create structures for deliberative politics. Without these mechanisms, Venezuela remains vulnerable to crises brought about by “uncivil action,” such as military coups and violent protests, making deliberation an important component in averting crises in democratizing polities.

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Andrea Felicetti

This article analyzes contemporary democracies from a deliberative democratic standpoint and focuses on the connection between public and empowered spaces. The idea of deliberative systems and the concept of “transmission” are introduced to discuss the ways in which the public is able to affect the empowered spaces. While elections perform important democratic functions, alone they cannot provide a good quality means for connecting deliberation in the public to that of actors in the empowered space. The problem with transmission is exacerbated to the extent that alternative forms of participation are neglected. The limited ability of the public to affect the empowered space in deliberative and democratic ways contributes to the crisis of democratic systems. One solution to this problem is to acknowledge the role of citizens' deliberation. The article argues for the systematic introduction of spaces for citizens' deliberation that would parallel existing decision-making.