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.
In the literature there are two well-established but opposite readings of Arendt: as an agonistic theorist and as a deliberative one. In between these two positions a smaller number of scholars have argued that in Arendt these two dimensions can to a large extent be reconciled. This paper follows this third path but tries to bring it one step further. In particular, it defends the idea that those scholars who have proposed this third reading of Arendt have fallen short of revealing the degree to which deliberation and agonism are, for her, interwoven. Through an original reading of Arendt’s views on judgment, persuasion, distinction and Eichmann’s banality, the paper clarifies why, for her, agonism and deliberation are not only compatible but actually mutually dependent. In other words, it clarifies why she believes that there can be no deliberation without agonism and no agonism without deliberation.
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.
The Crisis of Venezuelan Democracy
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.
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.
Cass Sunstein details intrinsic flaws in group discussion, even in ideal deliberation, and draws attention to prediction markets and information-aggregation devices on the internet as supplements to discussion. I respond that the supposed flaws do not affect ideal deliberation, and that the evaluation of group discussion is too pessimistic: there are alternative hypotheses to account for his findings, and there are doubts about their external validity. Also, I contend that his evaluation of prediction markets and internet devices is too optimistic. The markets have failed miserably, and the internet is vulnerable to astroturfing by the powerful and wealthy.
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.
The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits), has been a prominent site of student protests since 2015. In the midst of the conflicts various Wits actors claimed or implied a special democratic legitimacy. This article examines five exercises at Wits: the election of student representatives, the student protest movement, a student petition, a management-initiated poll and an aborted General Assembly. These exercises are scrutinised and scored along six democratic dimensions: directness, participation, representation, pluralism, equality and deliberation. According to the weak thesis, this dimensional analysis reveals a landscape of democratic complexity that belies the claim of any one actor to a superior democratic model. According to the strong thesis, there is a particular problem with democratic practices that score weakly in terms of representation. The weakness of the ‘fallist’ student movement in the representation dimension undercuts its claim to prefigure a superior form of comprehensive university-wide democracy.
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.
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.