The pathologies of the democratic public sphere, first articulated by Plato in his attack on rhetoric, have pushed much of deliberative theory out of the mass public and into the study and design of small scale deliberative venues. The move away from the mass public can be seen in a growing split in deliberative theory between theories of democratic deliberation (on the ascendancy) which focus on discrete deliberative initiatives within democracies and theories of deliberative democracy (on the decline) that attempt (...) to tackle the large questions of how the public, or civil society in general, relates to the state. Using rhetoric as the lens through which to view mass democracy, this essay argues that the key to understanding the deliberative potential of the mass public is in the distinction between deliberative and plebiscitary rhetoric. (shrink)
In Reasonable Democracy, Simone Chambers describes, explains, and defends a discursive politics inspired by the work of Jürgen Habermas. In addition to comparing Habermas's ideas with other non-Kantian liberal theories in clear and accessible prose, Chambers develops her own views regarding the role of discourse and its importance within liberal democracies. Beginning with a deceptively simple question—"Why is talking better than fighting?"—Chambers explains how the idea of talking provides a rich and compelling view of morality, rationality, and political stability. She (...) considers talking as a way for people to respect each other as moral agents, as a way to reach reasonable and legitimate solutions to disputes, and as a way to reproduce and strengthen shared understandings. In the course of this argument, she defends modern universalist ethics, communicative rationality, and what she calls a "discursive political culture," a concept that locates the political power of discourse and deliberation not so much in institutions of democratic decision-making as in the type of conversations that go on around these institutions. While discourse and deliberation cannot replace voting, bargaining, or compromise, Chambers argues, it is important to maintain a background moral conversation in which to anchor other activities. As an extended case study, Chambers examines the conversation about language rights that has been taking place for more than twenty years in Quebec. A culture of dialogue, she shows, has proved a positive and powerful force in resolving some of the disagreements between the two linguistic communities there. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the asymmetrical mediated communication of the broad democratic public sphere can profitably be understood through the lens of deliberative democracy only if we adopt a system approach to deliberation. A system approach, however, often introduces a division of labor between ordinary citizens and experts. Although this division of labor is unavoidable and I believe compatible with a deliberative principle of legitimacy, it flirts with elitist theories of democracy: epistemic elites come up with the agendas, (...) ideas, and policy positions and democratic publics ratify or repudiate the agendas but do not generate or really engage with them. This I argue would violate an essential defining feature of deliberative democracy, namely that epistemic quality and equal participation are tightly linked. I turn to Habermas and his idea of a feedback loop as a possible solution to this dilemma. (shrink)
ABSTRACTSkepticism about citizen competence is a core component of Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels’s call, in Democracy for Realists, for rethinking our model of democracy. In this paper I suggest that the evidence for citizen incompetence is not as clear as we might think; important research shows that we are good group problem solvers even if we are poor solitary truth seekers. I argue that deliberative democracy theory has a better handle on this fundamental fact of human cognition (...) and therefore has a more realistic view of the conditions that might improve citizen competence. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Diana Mutz's individual-level data show that participation and deliberation are often inversely related. This, according to Mutz, undermines many claims made by deliberative-democratic theory. However, a systemic approach to deliberative democracy challenges the significance of this finding. Although it is true that some citizens are political activists not open to hearing the other side and other citizens are less active but more open minded, both types of citizens make equally important and positive contributions to deliberative politics when it is (...) viewed as a system that deploys a division of labor. (shrink)
Constitutional reform has been an important means to push populist authoritarian agendas in Hungary, Poland, Turkey and Venezuela. The embrace of constitutional means and rhetoric in pursuit of these agendas has led to the growing recognition of ‘populist constitutionalism’ as a contemporary political phenomenon. In all four examples mentioned above, democracy, popular sovereignty and direct plebiscitary appeal to the people is the rhetorical and justificatory framework for constitutional reform. This, I worry, gives democracy a bad name and reinforces the widespread (...) suspicion that citizens should not be directly involved in constitutional reform as popular participation can lead to dangerous majoritarianism and is easily manipulated by elite actors seeking to weaken constitutional checks and balances. But the problem, I argue, is not inherent in citizen’s participation in constitutional reform. In contrast to populist constitutionalism, I develop an idea of deliberative constitutionalism in which citizens can participate in constitution-making and reform without hijacking constitutionalism for majoritarian, nationalist or anti-pluralist ends. Deliberative constitutionalism as I understand it has four features: a Habermasian co-originality thesis that articulates the interdependence of democracy and liberalism mediated by a conception of discourse; a proceduralized idea of popular sovereignty that reduces the tension between appeal to the people and respect for pluralism; the centrality of the public sphere over the voting booth as the cradle of democracy; institutional innovations intended to include citizens in constitutional reform but avoid majoritarian and populist pathologies. (shrink)
In this article I challenge Rainer Forst’s model of critical theory from the point of view of democratic theory. I suggest that his approach is too abstract and hypothetical to address the real world challenges facing democratic polities today.
This paper investigates early modern and enlightenment roots of contemporary ideas of public reason. I argue that concepts of public reason arose in answer to the question ‘who shall judge?’ The religious and moral pluralism unleashed by the reformation lead first to the weakening of authoritative common forms of reasoning, this in turn and more importantly lead to the question who is the final arbiter when a political community is faced with deep disagreement about political/ moral questions. The rise of (...) pluralism meant that to the question ‘what are the standards of public right?’ is added the corollary and equally important question ‘who judges when those standards are violated?’ The answer is that the public judges. Public reason thus refers to the role of the public as judge of public right and not simply to a set of reasons that an actual public happens to share. On this reading of Hobbes, Locke, and Kant, the initial contract recedes in importance while the seat of authoritative political judgment comes to the fore. Keywords: public reason; pluralism; Hobbes; Locke; Kant (Published: 4 December 2009) Citation: Ethics & Global Politics, Vol. 2, No. 4, 2009, pp. 349368. DOI: 10.3402/egp.v2i4.2135. (shrink)
Difference, diversity and disagreement are inevitable features of our ethical, social and political landscape. This collection of new essays investigates the ways that various ethical and religious traditions have dealt with intramural dissent; the volume covers nine separate traditions: Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, liberalism, Marxism, South Asian religions and natural law. Each chapter lays out the distinctive features, history and challenges of intramural dissent within each tradition, enabling readers to identify similarities and differences between traditions. The book concludes with (...) an Afterword by Michael Walzer, offering a synoptic overview of the challenge of intramural dissent and the responses to that challenge. Committed to dialogue across cultures and traditions, the collection begins that dialogue with the common challenges facing all traditions: how to maintain cohesion and core values in the face of pluralism, and how to do this in a way that is consistent with the internal ethical principles of the traditions. (shrink)
In this paper I pose two questions for Stephen White and his aspirational model of citizenship. The first is to ask what ethical sources do citizens need to oppose the presence of Nazis in our public sphere. The second is to question White’s deep suspicion of foundationalism and theism as sources of an open and democratic bearing and indeed as sources from which we can build strong opposition to Nazis.
This article argues that the equality versus difference dispute in feminism is not essentially a dispute about the basis of public policy as Georgia Warnke implies. Furthermore, rarely can public policy issues concerning women be resolved by direct appeal to interpretation. Interpretation should be understood as offering a model of cultural transformation rather than public policy adjudication. Key Words: deliberation democracy difference equality feminism interpretation.