Why Deliberative Democracy?

Why Deliberative Democracy?

Why Deliberative Democracy?

Why Deliberative Democracy?

Synopsis

The most widely debated conception of democracy in recent years is deliberative democracy--the idea that citizens or their representatives owe each other mutually acceptable reasons for the laws they enact. Two prominent voices in the ongoing discussion are Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson. InWhy Deliberative Democracy?, they move the debate forward beyond their influential book,Democracy and Disagreement. What exactly is deliberative democracy? Why is it more defensible than its rivals? By offering clear answers to these timely questions, Gutmann and Thompson illuminate the theory and practice of justifying public policies in contemporary democracies. They not only develop their theory of deliberative democracy in new directions but also apply it to new practical problems. They discuss bioethics, health care, truth commissions, educational policy, and decisions to declare war. In "What Deliberative Democracy Means," which opens this collection of essays, they provide the most accessible exposition of deliberative democracy to date. They show how deliberative democracy should play an important role even in the debates about military intervention abroad. Why Deliberative Democracy'contributes to our understanding of how democratic citizens and their representatives can make justifiable decisions for their society in the face of the fundamental disagreements that are inevitable in diverse societies. Gutmann and Thompson provide a balanced and fair-minded approach that will benefit anyone intent on giving reason and reciprocity a more prominent place in politics than power and special interests.

Excerpt

No subject has been more discussed in political theory in the last two decades than deliberative democracy. We contributed to that discussion in the early years, and then, in 1996, coauthored a book, Democracy and Disagreement, published by Harvard University Press, in which we defended our conception of deliberative democracy. We were gratified by the extensive attention the book received from scholars in the field as well as from many general readers. In 1999, Oxford University Press published Deliberative Politics, edited by Stephen Macedo, a volume devoted entirely to discussions of Democ- racy and Disagreement. In that collection, which included the most penetrating critiques of our theory as well as further extensions of it, we responded to our critics and modified our theory in some respects. But the debate continued, and so did our writing. In subsequent arti- cles, we dealt with additional criticisms, made further modifications, and, most important, sought to apply the conception to changing circumstances in public life.

The essays brought together here represent a selection of our contributions to the continuing discussion about the place of de- liberative democracy in today’s world. With the exception of chap- ter 2, all of these were written after the publication of Democracy and Disagreement and Deliberative Politics. The chapters appear, with only minor editorial changes, as they were originally published (see the Acknowledgments, on page 207). A complete list of our other jointly authored articles are listed on page 209, following the Ac- knowledgments.

“What Deliberative Democracy Means” (chapter 1) was writ- ten for this volume and has not previously been published. We intend it both as a general introduction for nontheorists who are interested . . .

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