Delivering Deliberation's Emancipatory Potential

Political Theory 34 (5):594 - 623 (2006)
Much of the appeal of deliberative democracy lies in its emancipatory promise to give otherwise disadvantaged groups a voice, and to grant them influence through reasoned argument. However, the precise mechanisms for delivery of this promise remain obscure. After reviewing Habermas's formulation of deliberation, the article draws on recent theories of argumentation to provide a more detailed account of such mechanisms. The article identifies the key emancipatory mechanism as explicitness in language. It outlines the primary modalities of this mechanism: expressing differences of opinion, mobilising a shared standard of inference, and recognising and excluding fallacious appeals to irrelevant factors such as force or authority. It describes how these modalities are enhanced at a secondary, reflexive level that recognises the partiality and defeasibility of particular argumentative exchanges. Such qualifications, it is argued, support a model of deliberation across discourses that allows a clearer appreciation of its potential and limits.
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