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When the talking stops: Deliberative disagreement and non-deliberative decision mechanisms

Ian O'Flynn, Newcastle University

Tue 5 December 2017

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


Deliberative democracy entails a commitment to deciding political questions on their merits.  In the ideal case, people engage in an exchange of reasons and arrive together at an agreed view or judgement on what is right or best.  In practice, of course, an agreed view may be impossible to reach—among other things, there may not be enough time or information.  Yet while deliberative democrats accept that compromise or voting may therefore be required to resolve the disagreement that deliberation leaves unresolved, the nature of that acceptance remains unclear.  Is there something in the logic of deliberative democracy to commend it or does it signal something important about the limits of the model?  To address this question, this paper uses the much-neglected distinction between conflicts of judgement and conflicts of preference to show why greater attention needs to be paid to the character of the decision to be made.

This paper is co-authored with Maija Setälä.

About the speaker

Dr Ian O’Flynn is a Senior Lecturer in Political Theory at Newcastle University.  His main research interest is in deliberative democracy, but he also works on topics such as compromise and political integration. He teaches modules in contemporary political theory and in the politics of deeply divided societies.  He is the author of Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies (2006) and his articles have appeared in journals such as British Journal of Political Science and Political Studies.  He has held visiting positions at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Australian National University.

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