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The potential of deliberative democracy in like-minded settings

Kimmo Grönlund, Åbo Akademi University

Tue 14 February 2017

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


When groups consisting of like-minded participants discuss among themselves, their views tend to become more extreme. This phenomenon is known as group polarization. Cass Sunstein (2002, 2009) calls this discussion in like-minded groups ‘enclave deliberation’. Enclave deliberation has become increasingly common, especially in online communities, where it is easy to find like-minded contexts. In the long run, the tendency to discuss in enclaves may threaten democracy, since cross-cutting deliberation with different viewpoints and interests is needed in order to find common solutions for political conflicts. Finnish population-based experiments confirm that like-minded groups tend to become more extreme when they discuss freely. However, when like-minded groups discuss under specific deliberative norms, they do not become more extreme. This finding is relevant to both deliberative theory and policy-making. If the increased polarization tendencies in western democracies can be alleviated with certain rules (especially online), a less hostile, depolarized public sphere could be achieved.

About the speaker

Kimmo Grönlund is Professor of Political Science and Director of Research of the Social Science Research Institute at Åbo Akademi University in Finland. He is Convenor (together with André Bächtiger) of the Standing Group on Democratic Innovations at the ECPR and Director of the Finnish National Election Study

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