Saturday, August 31, 2013

Five new papers on deliberative democracy

At the American Political Science Association (APSA) 2013 Annual Meeting August 29 - September 1 in Chicago, there will be presented many new papers on deliberative democracy. Here are some of them:

* Two Ideals of Deliberation?
by Graham Smith (University of Westminster)

This essay offers a provisional critique of the current trajectory of work on the ‘deliberative system’ and to propose a more cogent approach to thinking through the relationship between deliberative practices and the broader social, political and economic systems focused on the cultivation of what we term a ‘deliberative stance’. To this end, the paper engages primarily with two essays authored by Jane Mansbridge generally considered the cornerstone of the development of the deliberative system approach: the 1999 essay ‘Everyday talk and the deliberative system’ and the more recent 2012 piece ‘A systemic approach to deliberative democracy’, which can be reasonably seen as a manifesto for the deliberative system approach given its wide range of co-authors well-known within deliberative circles: James Bohman, Simone Chambers, Thomas Christiano, Archon Fung, John Parkinson, Dennis Thompson and Mark Warren.

* Comprehensive Deliberation: Democratic Reasoning Across Religious Difference
by Benjamin Hertzberg (Harvard University)

Many now believe that democracy grants citizens the moral permission to contribute religious arguments to democratic discussions. This permission poses a puzzle: because religious arguments are not broadly persuasive, the citizen who makes such an argument intending to persuade seems irrational. Further, it seems irrational for citizens to attempt to persuade some of their religious fellows. So the permission to contribute religious arguments seems practically incoherent. In this essay, I draw on a deliberative systems approach to argue that it is possible for citizens to mutually persuade each other even if they argue from their comprehensive commitments. Demonstrating the possibility of comprehensive deliberation shows why the intention to persuade via comprehensive arguments is not irrational. It also shows that religious citizens fully participate in democratic deliberation and that such deliberation can potentially transform citizens’ religious commitments. The possibility of comprehensive deliberation explains how democratic citizens can reason across religious difference.

* Understanding Deliberative Systems in Practice: The Crucial Role for Interpretive Research
by Carolyn M. Hendriks (Australian National University), Selen Ayirtman Ercan (University of Canberra) & John Boswell (University of Southampton)

Research on deliberative democracy has taken an empirical turn. There is a now an expanding literature that seeks to explore deliberative practice as it occurs in contemporary political practice. Much of this empirical scholarship has been situated within what Bevir and Ansari (2012) label a ‘modernist’ tradition of social inquiry, where hypotheses are tested, causal relationships identified and explanatory models developed. Under this mode of research, scholars have focused much attention on studying deliberative forums; offering insights into the nature and quality of deliberation and the effect of deliberation on individual preferences. But, these discrete face-to-face interactions represent only a small portion of the diversity of what constitutes public deliberation. The recent shift towards a deliberative systems approach emphasizes precisely this point and suggests understanding deliberation as a communicative activity occurring in a diversity of spaces. Notwithstanding its conceptual appeal, the systemic approach raises several questions, particularly when it comes to its empirical investigation and invites us to think harder about how we might study broader understandings of public deliberation. This paper argues that interpretive approaches, with their emphasis on understanding phenomena through experiences, perspectives, artifacts and actions, offer valuable tools for studying how deliberative systems are enacted in modern polities, and the possibilities and limitations for improving them. Drawing on recent empirical studies, the paper demonstrates how interpretive approaches can shed light on how deliberation occurs within, and across, a range of modes and settings in a deliberative system.

* Ten Issues for a Deliberative System
by Stephen Elstub (University of the West of Scotland) & Peter McLaverty (Robert Gordon University) 

As the focus on institutionalising deliberative democracy is moving to a focus on achieving deliberative political systems (Chambers 2009; Thompson 2008; Dryzek 2010; Parkinson & Mansbridge 2012), this paper addresses ten crucial issues (Elstub and McLaverty 2014) that plague its study, and are hindering the further development of deliberative democracy and its ability to progress to a systemic level. A number of these issues perennially affect democracy per se, not just the deliberative variant. However, the unique focus on public debate that is found in deliberative theory accentuates many of these problems, and, or provides distinct interpretations of the issues. Moreover, the welcome and necessary attention given to a systemic analysis of deliberative democracy further creates distinct interpretations of these ten problems, but also generates new potential solutions. The paper will therefore describe the ten issues, locating them within a deliberative system demonstrating that with some of the issues it makes it easier for deliberative democracy to overcome them, or at least changes the nature of the problem. In particular, we address five pathologies that inhibit political institutional arrangements in reaching the deliberative ideal in the system as a whole: tight-coupling, de-coupling, institutional domination, social domination, and entrenched partisanship and analyse how they relate to each of the ten issues and lacunae identified. 

* The Pragmatic Turn of Democracy in Latin America
by Thamy Pogrebinschi (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung)

In recent years, participatory and deliberative experiments have increasingly become an integral part of the process of democratic consolidation in Latin America. Given the speed with which they have been multiplied and institutionalized, a reassessment of democratization in Latin America seems necessary. This paper argues that a number of countries on the continent have taken a pragmatic turn, which can be read also as a detour from the democratic consolidation expected by third-wave scholars. Such pragmatic turn of democracy in Latin America does not imply substituting representative institutions for alternative, participatory or deliberative innovations, but rather using the latters as means to correct some of the alleged failures of the formers, as well as to attain social ends that they seem unable to achieve. The new, experimental pragmatic democracies of Latin America would then gradually displace the defective, delegative or pseudo ones, as the paper further claims.

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