Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Essays on Political Actors and Attitudes: Do They Constitute Distributed Reflexivity? Part 3: Long-Term Dynamics towards Deliberative Democracy

Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Essays on Political Actors and Attitudes: Do They Constitute Distributed Reflexivity? Part 3: Long-Term Dynamics towards Deliberative Democracy

Article excerpt

Abstract

In this final part of our series of essays we discuss the consequences of our earlier stated hypotheses that in times of well-being the logic of appropriateness prevails among both the constituencies and their political representatives, while in times of crisis constituencies resort to the logic of arguing, and leaders predominantly use the logic of consequences with some admixtures of the logic of arguing. Over a longer term we expect a gradual shiftfrom the logic of consequences toward the logic of arguing in times of crises. However, we do not expect that such a shiftnecessarily leads to a greater societal problem-solving capacity, since self-referential communicative processes may lead to what we call "communicative bubbles". Yet, we also argue that societies developing more deliberative strands of democracy have significant potential to come close to the condition of distributed reflexivity, characterized by the fact that each member of a society is able to start or join a discussion on any issue of his or her concern, to exercise his or her reasoning freely, and to make up his or her mind on any such issue, taking into account, when doing so, that other people have equal capacities and equal rights to do the same. We conclude that a plurality of deliberatively democratic societies have significant potential to develop genuine problem-solving capacities, and not merely communicative bubbles.

Keywords: political philosophy, deliberative democracy, distributed reflexivity, logic of appropriateness, logic of arguing, logic of consequences

1. Introduction

In the previous two parts of this series of essays we have argued that the median voter theorem does not provide an appropriate description of a complex interplay between the agency of constituencies and their political representatives. At the systemic level we have proposed the "competence fields approach" as the one capturing the main features of the more complex dynamics. We have also attempted to integrate the competence fields approach with a micro-level description of political phenomena, which led us to consider different types of logics characterising different types of rationality of political actors under different contextual conditions.

In particular, we have begun to investigate how different types of logics become prominent under different contextual conditions of economic well-being and crisis, respectively. We have argued that in times of well-being the logic of appropriateness prevails among both the constituencies and their political representatives, while in times of crisis constituencies resort to the logic of arguing, and leaders predominantly use the logic of consequences with some admixtures of the logic of arguing, and we have identified this gap between different types of arguing as a source of the current crisis of the political systems in Europe.

2. Longer-Term Dynamics

Now it seems to be the right time to ask how the unfolding of such dynamics over longer time periods looks like. What are its systemic implications? This refers back to the feedback cycle between political actors and political attitudes outlined in the first part of this series of essays. Obviously, we can expect a growing importance of both the logic of consequences and the logic of arguing in times of economic crisis, while in times of recovery and relative well-being we can expect a moderate retreat toward the logic of appropriateness. Thus, somewhat paradoxically, we can relate cycles of increased economic activity and growth with predominance of relatively "passivist" logic in political sphere,2 whereas the more "activist" types of logic seem to gain importance during economic downturns.3

There are indications, however, that over a long term we can expect a gradual shiftfrom the logic of consequences toward the logic of arguing in times of crises.4 Elster (1995, p. 257, emphasis in original) refers to "a multiplier effect of impartiality, by which the presence of some genuinely impartial actors may force or induce self-interested others to behave as if they, too, were swayed by such motives". …

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