Deliberative democracy and provisionality

Contemporary Political Theory 10 (4):423-443 (2011)
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Drawing on the work of Jacques Derrida, I propose a deconstructive reading of Gutmann and Thompson’s theory of deliberative democracy. The deconstructive reading starts from their concept of provisionality, and I argue that provisionality has consequences beyond those admitted by Gutmann and Thompson. While provisionality is an essential part of Gutmann and Thompson’s theory of deliberative democracy, it also dislocates the principles and distinctions on which their theory rests. Although Gutmann and Thompson try to control the effects of provisionality – for instance, through a distinction between deliberative and non-deliberative disagreements – ultimately this is only possible by suppressing contingency and disagreement, which are otherwise part of the motivation for introducing provisionality. Thus, Gutmann and Thompson’s deliberative democ- racy is marked by a tension between their affirmation of provisionality and their attempts to limit the effects provisionality. Out of the deconstructive reading emerges an alternative deconstructive conception of democracy and provisionality in terms of Derrida’s concept of democracy to-come



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