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Historicising Deliberative Democracy

7th ECPR General Conference

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Published on Tuesday, August 27, 2013


The last thirty years have seen the burgeoning of political and academic speeches on the merits of participative or deliberative democracy. In parallel, in occidental democracies, various systems sharing the ambition to strengthen or increase citizen participation through collective discussion on public issues are being institutionalized. These devices are often viewed today as a novel cure to the present crisis of representative governance. This panel, at the crossroads of sociology, history and political science, aims at historicizing such deliberation necessity and at redrawing the genesis of the phenomenon as speech and political practice.



(9:00 à 10:40)

  • Introduction: Paula Cossart and Sandra Gustafson
  • Gary Remer, "Ciceronian Friendship and Popular Deliberation"

 argue that the Ciceronian model of friendship is relevant for popular deliberation today. According to Cicero, conversation presupposes friendship, and friendship, as Cicero develops the concept in De amicitia, involves like-mindedness and agreement on values. Popular deliberation fails in the absence of shared values, as is suggested by the futility of political discussion across political lines in our own times. I further contend that deliberative democracy envisions a type of popular deliberation that ignores the ideological divisions within society and that would be enriched, as a political theory, by taking note of Ciceronian friendship. Thus, deliberative democrats demand that popular deliberation be sincere, rational, inclusive, non-strategic, and directed toward attaining consensus. These demands, however, are unrealistic especially because popular deliberation as conceived by deliberative democrats is between citizens-at-large without attention paid to the political views of these citizens. By incorporating Cicero’s model of conversation between friends, deliberative democracy may become a more plausible theory by acknowledging that popular deliberation is most successful when conducted primarily within groups or associations of individuals with common ideological assumptions, i.e., between friends, not strangers.

  • James Fishkin, "Deliberative Democracy: Antecedents and Applications"

Modern efforts to develop deliberative democracy must answer some key questions: a) what is deliberation? b) who deliberates? c) if only a select group deliberates, with what authority or relevance do they do so? d) how does deliberative democracy interrogate or compete with other forms of democracy which emphasize mass participation, or electoral competition? e) what are the entry points for deliberative democratic practice to have an effect on other institutions or decisions.
This paper will draw on some key cases in the history of democratic practice to illuminate both the competing values at stake in these debates and institutional suggestions for entry points or tasks for which deliberation by the people might be suitable. The ancient Athenian institutions that provide a model of deliberators chosen by lot –the Council of 500, the nomethetai, the juries will provide a precedent for combining sortition with deliberation. The debate over the American founding will provide a focus on Madison’s strategy of “successive filtrations” as contrasted with Anti-Federalist arguments tying decisions closer to the actual views of the people. The debate over the Rhode Island referendum on the US constitution will provide material for who deliberates, in what sort of institution (convention or direct participation in a referendum) and allow for reflections on the contrast between the “filter” of deliberation and the “mirror” of descriptive representation. The paper will offer institutional suggestions and draw on some contemporary cases as well, but the focus will be on using the hidden history of deliberative practices to enrich the debate about current experimentation.

  • Antonio Floridia, "Participatory Democracy and Deliberative Democracy: Elements for a Possible Theoretical Genealogy. Different Histories With Some Points of Intersection"

The paper contributes to the critical and historical reconstruction of two different paradigms of democracy. First, it analyses the origins and some theoretical features of participatory democracy, as it was developed by some authors in the sixties and seventies, in particular, Carole Pateman and C. B. MacPherson. Then, it discusses the evolution these models have undergone, especially as treated by Benjamin Barber and Jane Mansbridge, also because of the failures and crisis of participatory practices.
While the stature of these experiments and the related theoretical model was waning, another thread of history began. Debates centred on the interpretation of American democracy and the Constitution saw the term “deliberative democracy” come into use by some scholars. Usually, the first use of this expression is attributed to an essay written by Joseph Bessette (1980), but the earliest influential use of the term should be credited to Cass Sunstein, a famous scholar of the American Constitution, in one of his essays (1985). 
In the same time period, two of the most important philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century, Jurgen Habermas and John Rawls, proposed some crucial features of their reflection which offer essential conceptual tools to develop a new theoretical framework around the idea, or the regulative ideal, of a “deliberative democracy”. Their suggestions were taken up by some authors who wrote some of the first important contributions to deliberative theory (Elster, 1986; Manin, 1987; Cohen, 1989). 
Thus, participatory and deliberative democracy run on two separate tracks, that only in some respects and in more recent times intersect. In conclusion, the paper analyses the current debates about different visions of the roles that participation and/or public deliberation may play to improve the quality of democracy and counteract the legitimacy crisis that wracks contemporary democracies today.

Discuttant: Julien Talpin


  • Sciences Po, Bordeaux
    Bordeaux, France (33)


  • Saturday, September 07, 2013


  • deliberation, participatory democracy, historicisation, socio-history, citizenship, political participation


  • Paula Cossart
    courriel : paula [dot] cossart [at] univ-lille [dot] fr

Information source

  • Paula Cossart
    courriel : paula [dot] cossart [at] univ-lille [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Historicising Deliberative Democracy », Study days, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, August 27, 2013, https://doi.org/10.58079/o4l

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