Reasoning together: Understanding and measuring the deliberativeness of a situation

Simon Niemeyer and Francesco Veri, University of Canberra

Tue 4 June 2019

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


Deliberative democracy concerns the collective process of reasoning undistorted by the exercise of power, but can this be captured empirically? Where most emphasis in the field has been on understanding good deliberative procedure, the focus here is on understanding a reasoned ‘outcome’ in a deliberative sense — beyond the problematic measure of preference change as a proxy for deliberativeness. The presentation considers what it means conceptually for individuals to “reason together” in the absence of pathologies or political manipulation and how this might be revealed in observed positions. A middle-level theory is proposed that models intersubjective reasoning in terms of how underlying issue considerations collectively map onto courses for action (preferences). The nature of the relationship indicates the deliberativeness of a situation. To the extent that a group ‘reasons together’ it is possible to observe a shared rationale, even if there is little actual agreement on preferences. This property is empirically tractable, using intersubjective consistency (IC) which can be applied to both small groups and population surveys to assess consistency of agreement on considerations versus agreement on preferences. The approach is illustrated using fourteen deliberative case studies, as well as wider application comparing climate sceptics to non-sceptics. The mechanics of the methodology, as well as implications for deliberative theory at both micro and deliberative systems levels are discussed.

About the speakers

Simon Niemeyer is an Associate Professor and co-founder of the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance. His research ties together the themes of political behaviour, the public sphere and observations from deliberative minipublics, such as Citizens’ Juries, to develop insights into potential interventions and institutional settings that improve deliberation and governance.

Francesco Veri is a Research Associate at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra. He is currently working on the Australian Research Council's (ARC) project " A Meta-Study of Democratic Deliberation: Advancing Theory and Practice” led by Simon Niemeyer, Nicole Curato and John Dryzek. Francesco is specialized in the field of configurational comparative methods with an emphasis on fuzzy logic applied to social sciences. His methodological research focuses on concept operationalization and strengthening the quality of parameters of fit in set theoretic methods. Francesco is also member of the Lucerne Cluster for Configurational Methods (LUCCS) which regroup scholars who make major contributions to social science methodology at the crossroads between quantitative and qualitative research.