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Towards a new deliberative quality: from unitary and idealized to pluralistic and re-politicized visions of deliberative democracy

André Bächtiger, University of Stuttgart

Tue 19 February 2019

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


Many researchers and practitioners have understood (and understand) deliberation as a fixed and unitary construct that quasi-automatically supports and strengthens democracy. Yet, empirical research shows that the classic deliberative core can collide with democratic goods. Moreover, deliberative scholars have long focused on “ideal” institutions, such as deliberative mini-publics or institutional settings in politics that promote classic deliberative ideals. But “ideal” institutions in politics reduce deliberation to a rare event; and a focus on deliberative mini-publics means focusing on events that rarely lead to consequential outcomes in the polity and may even undermine democratic legitimacy. In our new book Mapping and Measuring Deliberation, John Parkinson and I understand deliberation as contingent, dependent on different contexts and goals. Moreover, our new approach also understands deliberation as performative and distributed. On this basis, we re-politicise deliberation. Not only is it necessary to broaden the analytical lens and study deliberative action in all kinds of sites of a democratic system, we must also adapt our deliberative ideals to the variegated contexts and goals of deliberation. Finally, we must also grapple with the ´Goldilocks´ question that there may be too much deliberation, requiring us to think of balancing moments between deliberative and democratic ideals.

About the speaker

André Bächtiger holds the Chair of Political Theory at the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Stuttgart. His research focuses on the challenges of mapping and measuring deliberation and political communication as well as understanding the preconditions and outcomes of high-quality deliberation in the contexts of both representative institutions and mini-publics. His research has been published by Cambridge University Press and in the British Journal of political Science, European Journal of Political Research, the Journal of Political Philosophy, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, European Political Science Review, Political Studies, and Acta Politica. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy (co-edited with John Dryzek, Jane Mansbridge, and Mark Warren).

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