Authors
Shane J. Ralston
Pennsylvania State University
Abstract
In a recent article, Carolyn Hendricks and Lyn Carson begin to remedy the deficit of literature on deliberative democracy consultancy, or the provision of deliberation goods and services for a fee, by observing that the competitive, entrepreneurial and business-driven nature of this growing deliberative industry might threaten those conditions for generating an open and participatory process of democratic governance. Building on their important contribution to the literature, the present paper provides a parallel assessment based on John Dewey's notions of public spirit and socialized intelligence. While the growth of the deliberative consultancy industry might appear dangerous to the prospects for an engaged citizenry and open government, the specter, I argue, is more apparent than real, the result of two implicit dualisms, one between citizens and experts and the other between the individual and the community. Some might claim that Dewey's critique of the epistemological industry also applies to the deliberation industry. However, this is not the case. Deliberative consultancy pertains to the business enterprise behind deliberative democracy, not the academic enterprise of producing knowledge about deliberative democracy. Dewey's notion of public spirit defuses the tension between citizen and expert, or deliberators and consultants, by understanding them as engaged in collaborative partnerships. Moreover, Dewey's idea of socialized intelligence reunites the individual and her community, or the deliberative entrepreneur and the larger community of inquirers. In this way, the threat, in Jon Elster's terminology, that the market poses to the forum does not manifest in the relationship between deliberative consultants and deliberating publics so long as a few ethical norms guide the practice of deliberative consultancy
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