Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies

Synopsis

Shows how deliberative democracy has crucial, untapped opportunities for societies divided along ethnic lines In a world where the impact of internal conflicts is spreading ever wider, there is a real need to rethink how democratic ideals and institutions can best be implemented.

Stephen Elstub shows how deliberative norms and procedures can enable the citizens of conflict-stricken societies to build and sustain a stronger sense of common national identity. More specifically, he argues that the deliberative requirements of reciprocity and publicity can enable citizens and representatives to strike an appropriate balance between the need to recognise competing ethnic identities and the need to develop a common civic identity centred on the institutions of the state.

Excerpt

The idea of a specifically deliberative model of democracy, in which collective decisions are arrived at through public reasoning and discussion among equal citizens, is not new. Since about 1990, however, that idea has undergone a major revival – so much so that deliberative democracy is now firmly established as one of the most important positions in contemporary democratic theory. The reasons driving this revival are manifold, but three broad considerations stand out. First, many democratic theorists had become increasingly dissatisfied with the prevailing view that, because democracy imposes unrealistic demands on the time and attention of ordinary citizens, the business of making political decisions should be left to political elites who would then be held to account at election time. Democratic theorists sought to reject this elitist model of democracy in favour of a model that could allow ordinary citizens a much more effective say in the making of the political decisions by which they are bound. Second, the deliberative revival was also driven by a desire to afford a greater say to individuals and groups who, through no fault of their own, were politically marginalised. Partly, this was in response to the arguments of feminists and multiculturalists. But it was also in response to the more general failure of political elites to respond adequately to the interests and experiences of ordinary citizens or to advance the cause of social justice more generally. Finally, democratic theorists were also concerned with the quality of democracy itself. In particular, they were searching for new means of addressing the growing levels of political disaffection among ordinary citizens and the concomitant atrophying of civic life. More generally, they sought to replace the negative view of ordinary citizens that underpinned the elitist model of democracy with a positive view that stressed the social and moral benefits that could be secured if citizens were given the opportunity to participate to at least some extent in political life. Democratic . . .

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