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Cultivating a deliberative stance

Simon Niemeyer, University of Canberra

Tue 7 March 2017

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


There has been much focus in deliberative democracy on procedures that may be more or less deliberative, which may also bear some relationship to the deliberativeness of an outcome or decision. More recently the idea of dispositional state has gained attention, initially through the idea of ‘deliberative stance’ proposed by Owen and Smith. The idea of a deliberative stance potentially fills important gaps in the theory of deliberation, where differences in stance confound the relationship between procedure and outcome. If it can be said that an individual as adopted a more deliberative stance during a deliberative encounter, then we might expect difference in outcome compared to another who has not, even though all other procedural observations may be the same — although it is also likely that stance and procedure are also related.

The role of inducing a deliberative stance was tested as part of a mini public field experiment in 2016 in Sweden on the issue of begging by internal EU migrants. Two groups participated in a three-day process, one of which undertook pre-deliberative group exercises aimed at inducing deliberative norms, or a ‘deliberative stance’. The second group did not undertake any group exercises, but instead began the process with a briefing about the ideals of deliberation. Both groups then participated in the same process. The differences in outcome between the two groups were analysed in terms of conventional preference transformation, as well as the intersubjective relationship between values, beliefs — or ‘reasons’ — and policy choices (intersubjective consistency). The implications of the results for deliberative theory and practice are discussed.

This paper is co-authored with Julia Jennstål, Uppsala University

About the speaker

Simon Niemeyer is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow whose research covers the broad fields of deliberative democracy and environmental governance, particularly in respect to climate change. His focus is on the forces that shape public opinion and how this can be improved so that the expressed preference of the public better reflects their collective long-term interests. This has guided his research in the direction of exploring the nature of preference change during deliberative minipublics, which is now moving into a phase of understanding the possibility for deliberative preference formation in mass public settings and the institutional features that best facilitate deliberative democratic governance.

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