Deliberative Democracy and Human Rights


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Front matter

Global Public Administration.

This is Proof: Voters Can Agree on Solutions to the Country’s Problems

Abstract Recent criticism of representative liberal democracy has spurred democratic experiments involving citizen consultations in deliberative forums. Fingerprint charter. South Korea.

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Policy Studies , 39 1 , In: Policy Studies. In: Policy Studies , Vol. The argument is multi-faceted, and there were moments where it became difficult to see a singular thread in the text I think the authors would agree that there is not a single thread, but rather a rope made up of different threads combined to make a stronger amalgam. As this is a book review, though, I will seek to elucidate several of the core arguments, expound a few problems with the contentions, and suggest alternate directions the authors or others could take in similar studies.

This is Proof: Voters Can Agree on Solutions to the Country’s Problems

The book covers a lot of terrain impressively. But it is in the next section Part III that the book uncovers its analytical promise. The main argument underpinning the book is that deliberative democrats and legal scholars have talked past each other, to the detriment of both fields. What we require is a better understanding of not just how deliberative democracy can shed light on the legitimacy of legal arrangements but that legal norms enable and constrain deliberative democratic processes in constitutional liberal democracies.

This category contains legal rulings surrounding the conditions of democracy itself — electoral rules, redistricting, campaign finance, and so on. It is juxtaposed against first-order deliberation, which includes policy decisions that are made within the strictures of second-order deliberation — politicians making health care policy or levying taxes, judges reviewing human rights legislation, and so on. The authors seem to give second-order deliberation ontological primacy in their evaluation of how deliberation and legal principles might be reconciled, as second-order deliberation constrains first-order.


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The second major argument of the book is fleshed out convincingly next Part III. The authors argue that the key legal principle of proportionality invoked by judges often pits deliberative democracy against key normative virtues such as liberty, equality, and integrity these three values respectively constitute the three chapters of Part III. While the arguments in each sub-section cannot be rehashed here, the authors rightly note that judges often find that deliberative democracy is in tension with other key values i. The authors find similar tensions with equality and integrity, and substantiate these claims by looking at a range of case studies from polling regulation, truth in political campaigns, public broadcasting of campaign mandates, and gerrymandering.

Thicker readings of these values, however, allow for a reconciliation with deliberative democracy so that they become mutually supportive rather than zero-sum.

Part One Introduction

The authors cleverly demonstrate how a more nuanced conception of deliberative democracy arrives at additive rather than subtractive efforts to enhance deliberation and liberty p. While well-reasoned theoretically and supported empirically, it is important to note some limitations to the arguments. First, methodologically, the authors argue that the cases they choose to elucidate their key points derive from Australian, Canadian, and U.

While this is certainly good motivation for study, in a book seeking to bridge law with political theory, it would be nice to see a more social scientific justification for the case selection.

Deliberative Democracy and Human Rights

What do the cases tell us about generalizability of the arguments? Because the deliberative process requires that citizens understand, formulate, and exchange arguments for their views, norms of clear communication and rules of argumentation are important to formulate. Citizens must be able to present their claims in understandable and meaningful ways to their fellow deliberators. These claims must also be supported by argumentation and reason that makes these views publicly justifiable to differently situated deliberators.


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  • Most theories of deliberative democracy hold that the maximum inclusion of citizens and viewpoints generates the most legitimate and reasonable political outcomes. In addition to improving the level of discussion and accounting for the most arguments, more-inclusive deliberative processes are fairer because more people have their views considered.

    Many theorists consider the following possible problems with theories of deliberative democracy. If only certain modes of expression, forms of argument, and cultural styles are publicly acceptable, then the voices of certain citizens will be excluded. This exclusion will diminish the quality and legitimacy of the outcomes of deliberative processes. Further, deliberation assumes the capacity of citizens to be reasonable, cooperate, unify, and shape their views based on rational debate and the views of others.

    Some argue that this may be more than human beings are capable of, either because of human nature or because of already existing social inequalities and biases. Social conditions, such as already existing structural inequalities, pluralism , social complexity, the increasing scope of political concerns, and the impracticality of affected citizens having forums in which to deliberate are also reasons why some are skeptical of the viability of a deliberative form of democracy.

    Deliberative democratic theory brings ethical concerns into the realm of democratic decision making.

    "Deliberative Democracy and Human Rights: A Conference in Remembrance o" by Janet K. Levit

    The ultimate aim of deliberative democratic practices is increased citizen participation, better outcomes, and a more authentically democratic society. You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. Deliberative democracy. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback.

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