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.
A Response to Caspary
This critical reply addresses William Caspary’s commentary on my use of John Dewey to elevate the theory of participatory democracy above deliberative democracy within contemporary democratic thought. In this reply I will defend my reading of Dewey against Caspary’s claim that Dewey is not the supporter of “nondeliberative” direct action that I take him to be. I will also explore the similarities and differences between my and Caspary’s views on the consonance of participatory democracy with practices of direct action, and I will expand on my own critique of deliberative democratic thought.