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The Theory and Practice of Deliberative Democracy

Investigator(s):

John Dryzek and Robert Goodin

The Theory and Practice of Deliberative Democracy

Funded through Discovery Project (DP0342795) ($223,547), the Project Team includes:


  • John Dryzek

  • Robert Goodin

  • Christian Hunold

  • Carolyn Hendriks

  • Aviezer Tucker

Project Description


This project examined the relationship between deliberative innovations, especially citizen forums, and the larger political contexts in which they take place. Particular kinds of institutional innovation work out quite differently in different contexts. A comparative study of consensus conferences on genetically modified foods revealed sharp differences between the roles such forums play in Denmark (where they are integrated into policy making), the United States (where they are advocacy inputs from the margins of policy making), and France (where they are managed from the top down). A broader survey of cases also revealed systematic differences between the relatively 'promethean' position that policy makers are constrained to take, and the more 'precautionary' conclusions reached by reflective publics, causing problems for the deliberative legitimation of risk-related policy via citizen forums. A close look at Germany enabled systematic comparison of the virtues and problems of forums made up of, respectively, partisan stakeholders and non-partisan lay citizens. Another broad survey of cases looked at the variety of ways in which citizen forums, or 'mini-publics', can have an impact in larger political systems. All these empirical results can help inform the development of deliberative democratic theory, as well as the practice of deliberative innovation.