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Deliberative Worlds: Democracy, Justice And A Changing Earth System


John Dryzek, Jonathan Pickering, Jensen Sass, Ana Tanasoca

Deliberative Worlds: Democracy, Justice And A Changing Earth System

Funded through Laureate Fellowship (FL140100154) ($2,616,265), the Project Team includes:

  • John Dryzek, Chief Investigator

  • Jonathan Pickering, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

  • Jensen Sass, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

  • Ana Tanasoca, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Project Description

This research extends deliberative democracy to three key areas: global justice, environmental governance in the Anthropocene (where human activities influence the trajectory of the Earth system) and cultural variety. It develops deliberative analysis of global anti-poverty policy, of how environmental governance is configured, and how democracy can be advanced across different cultures and internationally. The knowledge generated will inform worldwide efforts to put deliberative democracy into practice, as well as promotion of global justice, effective environmental governance, and democratisation.

The Laureate Fellowship has three sub-projects:

(1) Deliberating in the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is the emerging environmental epoch in which human activity is a major driver of a less stable and more chaotic Earth system, which can be contrasted with the unusual climatic stability of the past 10,000 years of the Holocene (in which human civilization arose). The implications are profound, because dominant institutions such as states and markets developed under unusually benign Holocene conditions. They are not fit for the Anthropocene. To date the response of social scientists has been limited, producing at most calls for strengthened global governance. This project explores a deliberative approach to the Anthropocene embodying ecological reflexivity and recognizing the active influence of the earth system itself. The project is both theoretical and empirical, with applications to issues such as the global governance of climate change, and biological diversity.

(2) Deliberative Global Justice. This project develops an encounter between deliberative democracy and global justice, the two most prominent programs in political theory in the past decade and more, both now wrestling with problems that intersect in interesting ways as they encounter a recalcitrant global order. The two topics have become estranged in political theory, where democracy is treated as a matter of procedure, and justice a matter of substantive outcomes that cannot be guaranteed by any procedure. At the same time there is a widely-shared feeling among theorists that the two really do belong together. Amartya Sen argues that global justice requires democracy because in any real setting, multiple conceptions of justice can apply, and public reason will be needed to sort them out. Deliberative democracy can speak to this need. More importantly, without something like deliberative democracy, the standing of the agents necessary to put justice into practice is problematic, and the conditions of their interaction impoverished. This project combines political theory and an application to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development embodying the Sustainable Development Goals.

(3) Deliberative Cultures. Deliberative democracy is often viewed as being most at home in the constitutional settings of Western liberal democracies, and when applied elsewhere (to the global political system or non-Western societies) this association often forms a baseline against which other practices are measured. Yet if deliberative democracy is to apply to global contexts – such as that defining global justice and the Anthropocene (see other projects) – it is going to involve people from many cultures, with different presuppositions about appropriate political communication. While deliberation manifests a universal human competence to reason collectively (and as such is more universal than, for example, voting), its character varies considerably across time and place. A fuller understanding of political deliberation requires studying diverse social and political contexts. Such studies promise new insight into the various forms deliberative practice can take and the conditions under which it can flourish. The research begins this line of inquiry by establishing an innovative encounter between an intersubjective account of culture and deliberative theory. This encounter will proceed initially through examination of studies in cultural sociology and anthropology that speak to deliberative concerns, before moving to empirical research. All this can be deployed in response to critics who allege a Eurocentric bias in deliberative democracy.

Project Outputs (selected)

  1. John S. Dryzek and Jonathan Pickering, The Politics of the Anthropocene. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

  2. André Bächtiger, John S. Dryzek, Jane Mansbridge, and Mark Warren, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  3. Ana Tansoca, The Ethics of Multiple Citizenship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

  4. Jensen Sass, “The Cryptonormative Swamp”, American Sociologist 49 (2018): 448-55.

  5. John S. Dryzek, “The Forum, the System, and the Polity: Three Varieties of Democratic Theory”, Political Theory 2017.

  6. John S. Dryzek and Jonathan Pickering, “Deliberation as a Catalyst for Reflexive Environmental Governance”, Ecological Economics 131 (2017): 353-60.

  7. John S. Dryzek, “Can there be a Human Right to an Essentially Contested Concept? The Case of Democracy”, Journal of Politics 78 (2) (2016): 357-67.

  8. John S. Dryzek, “Institutions for the Anthropocene: Governance in a Changing Earth System”, British Journal of Political Science 46 (4) (2016): 937-56.

  9. John S. Dryzek, “Democratic Agents of Justice”, Journal of Political Philosophy 23 (4) (2015): 361-84.

  10. Jonathan Pickering, Frank Jotzo, and Peter J. Wood, “Splitting the Difference: Can the Global Climate Financing Effort be Shared Fairly if International Coordination Remains Limited?” Global Environmental Politics, forthcoming.

  11. Jonathan Pickering, “What Drives National Support for Multilateral Climate Finance? International and Domestic Influences on Australia’s Shifting Stance”, International Environmental Agreements 17 (1) 2017: 107-125.

  12. Ana Tanasoca, “Citizenship for Sale?: Neomedieval not just Neoliberal”, European Journal of Sociology 57 (1): 169-95.

  13. Jensen Sass, “Deliberative Ideals Across Diverse Cultures”, in Andre Bachtiger, John S. Dryzek, Jane Mansbridge, and Mark Warren, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  14. Mark Bevir and Quinlan Bowman, “Qualitative Assessment of Deliberation”, in Andre Bachtiger, John S. Dryzek, Jane Mansbridge, and Mark Warren, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy. Oxford: OUP.

Public Engagement

  • Podcast: Real Democracy Now! Bonus episodes on Deliberation, Culture, Context. Listen here.

  • Public event: Reshaping Planetary Politics: Governance and Activism in the Anthropocene. Watch here.