Deliberative democracy

The final decade of the second millennium saw the theory of democracy take a strong deliberative turn. Increasingly, democratic legitimacy came to be seen in terms of the ability or opportunity to participate in effective deliberation on the part of those subject to collective decisions. (Note that only the ability or opportunity to participate is at issue; people can choose not to deliberate.) Thus claims on behalf of or against such decisions have to be justified to these people in terms that, on reflection, they are capable of accepting. The reflective aspect is critical, because preferences can be transformed in the process of deliberation. Deliberation as a social process is distinguished from other kinds of commu­nication in that deliberators are amenable to changing their judgements, preferences, and views during the course of their interactions, which involve persuasion rather than coercion, manipulation, or deception. The essence of democ­racy itself is now widely taken to be deliberation, as opposed to voting, interest aggregation, constitutional rights, or even self-government. The deliberative turn represents a renewed concern with the authenticity of democracy: the degree to which democratic control is substantive rather than symbolic, and engaged by competent citizens. [1]

1 comment

  1. Demanding informed opinions is all very well, and a move away from a naive conception of democracy (e.g. as bound up in voting) is surely welcome. But justificationism has pretty much died with the positivists. (Even Mill was a step ahead in this regard when he formulated a basic falsificationist process.)

    And simply being willing to change your mind is no good either if the next opinion you take up is just as bad (or worse) than the one before, as Deutsch explains here.

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