Crossing the Divide: Marginalized Populations and the Dilemma of Deliberative Democracy

Social Philosophy Today 29:21-31 (2013)
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In this article I assert that deliberative democratic theory, as articulated by Jürgen Habermas and Seyla Benhabib, explicitly fails to live up the demands of its discourse-ethical foundation when we examine undocumented immigrants who live in any given nation. In the case of undocumented immigrants, there is a gap which exists between a moral imperative to include those affected by a norm in discourse, and legal structures which actualize this imperative. I offer the following account in an effort to show how one might bridge this gap. First, virtual representation of undocumented interests by the citizens of a bounded community is not sufficient to correct the dilemma of deliberative democracy. Second, I will claim that the rhetorical power of personal testimony from marginalized individuals is required for a responsible judgment in discourse. Finally I will discuss practical forums for this participation which can potentially solve the dilemma of deliberative democracy. Through direct confrontation with those who are unjustly marginalized, we can cross the divide that exists between a moral imperative to respect the undocumented and a legally-recognized right to participate in discourse.



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Kyle Thomsen
Saint Francis University

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