Reflective Democracy

Reflective Democracy

Reflective Democracy

Reflective Democracy


Democracy used to be seen as a relatively mechanical matter of merely adding up everyone's votes in free and fair elections. That mechanistic model has many virtues, among them allowing democracy to 'track the truth', where purely factual issues are all that is at stake. Political disputes invariably mix facts with values, however, and then it is essential to listen to what people are saying rather than merely note how they are voting. The great challenge is how to implement that deliberative ideal among millions of people at once. In this strikingly original book, Goodin offers a solution: 'democratic deliberation within'. Building on models of ordinary conversational dynamics, he suggests that people simply imagine themselves in the position of various other people they have heard or read about and ask, 'What would they say about this proposal?' Informing the democratic imaginary then becomes the key to making deliberations more reflective - more empathetic, more considered, more expansive across time and distance.


I missed the 'fall of the Wall': my second son was in the process of being born. But none of us political philosophers could fail to feel its reverberations.

Which is not to say that any of us knew quite what to make of it, immediately. The first flush of mindless triumphalism soon gave way to despair over the release of long-repressed ethno-nationalist score-settling; and many of the 'new democracies' were democratic in form only (and decreasingly that, all too often). While constitutional lawyers busied themselves with the tasks of statecraft, advising on basic institutions for the new democracies, political sociologists continued probing the suitability of the sociological and psychological soil for sustaining these political transplants. Those have proven to be rich sites for new political theorizing, fully as rich as all the other first-order political movements and events that have done so much to reinvigorate political philosophy in our lifetimes.

Beyond more specific issues of sustainable institutional design (on which I have written in the past and hope to do much more), broader issues of democratic theory were suddenly back at the centre of the political philosophical agenda. Of course, democratic theory was never considered a 'settled' subject, and questions of power and participation and inclusion have always been simmering away. But as the catch-cry of 'democratization' began echoing around the world, what had long simmered away on political philosophers' back burners suddenly shifted to the forefront. Suddenly all of us—not just those specializing in the subject—had to confront questions of what it was to democratize a society, both others' and our own.

These issues were pressed upon me with particular force when the incoming President of the International Political Science Association, Carole Pateman, invited me to serve as the Program Chair for that Association's XIVth World Congress, meeting in Berlin in August 1994 to discuss the theme of 'Democratization'. Working with her and our Berlin colleagues—Gerhard Göhler and Hubertus Buchstein, Hans-Dieter Klingeman and David Soskice, Claus Offe and Peter Wagner, and many others—on preparations for that event not only kept my mind focused on issues of democratization but helped me see more clearly their many different aspects. The contributions of the several thousand participants in that Congress, which as Program

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