Sunday, April 21, 2013

Does Deliberative Democracy Need Deliberative Democrats?

In the new issue of "Contemporary Political Theory" (May 2013):

"Does deliberative democracy need deliberative democrats?" [pdf]
Revisiting Habermas’ defence of discourse ethics

by Nick O'Donovan

"Many political theorists today appeal to, or assume the existence of, a political culture in which the public values of Western liberal democracies are embedded – a political culture that is necessary to render their ideas plausible and their proposals feasible. This article contrasts this approach with the more ambitious arguments advanced by Jürgen Habermas in his original account of discourse ethics – a moral theory to which, he supposed, all human beings were demonstrably and ineluctably bound by the communicative constitution of collective life. Although these arguments have been largely discredited, I argue that Habermas’ analysis can be enlisted in defence of a weaker claim: namely, that principled commitment to discussion is not always necessary for genuine deliberative engagement to occur. As a result, there may be hope for democratic deliberation in contexts where a liberal democratic political culture is lacking."

See also three recent papers by Nick O'Donovan here.

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