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.
Bringing the System Back In
Michael J. Jensen
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
From Consociationalism to Deliberation?
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.
Democracy, Identification, and Embodiment
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.
Testing the Limits of Deliberative Democracy
This article explores the boundaries of the commitment of deliberative democrats to communication and persuasion over threats and intimidation through examining the hard cases of civil disobedience and terrorism. The case of civil disobedience is challenging as deliberative democrats typically support this tactic under certain conditions, yet such a move threatens to blur the Habermasian distinction between instrumental and communicative action that informs many accounts of deliberative democracy. However, noting that civil disobedience is deemed acceptable to many deliberative democrats so long as it remains 'relevantly tied to the objective of communicative action', Allen holds that certain kinds of terrorism cannot be ruled out either. Whilst acknowledging that the deliberative democrat cannot really justify taking life as a tactic to induce deliberation, as 'dead people cannot deliberate', Allen notes that this does not rule out terrorism per se, the object of which is not death so much as generating overwhelming fear. Further, while a permanent condition of fear would set limits on deliberation, limited and temporary physical harm to persons need not. This implies that deliberative democrats must explain why intentionally causing some physical harm to property or persons is always an illegitimate form of communication.