Disabling Democracy: How Disability Reconfigures Deliberative Democratic Norms

Stacy Clifford

Vanderbilt University


APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper

Deliberative democrats often encounter the tension between inclusion and intelligibility. To fulfill conditions of justice, deliberation requires full inclusion, but the need for
intelligible communication excludes members from participating, particularly due to age or disability. In this scenario, inclusion is sacrificed for intelligibility. This paper argues that no sacrifice is necessary. Instead, by analyzing the experiences of people with disabilities, it shows how speechless populations offer an alternative account of embodied participation wherein deliberative democracy is expanded from a verbal exchange to a bodily process. Embodied participation suggests that deliberants are bound not by norms of communicative reciprocity, but are rather enmeshed in reciprocal dependence that binds members of communities together. Habermas offers an ideal site to pursue this analysis because he recognizes the theoretical tension between inclusion and intelligibility and because his personal testimony reveals important insight into the lived experience of disability.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 34

Keywords: Habermas, deliberative democracy, disability, publicity, reciprocity

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Date posted: August 13, 2009 ; Last revised: August 25, 2009

Suggested Citation

Clifford, Stacy, Disabling Democracy: How Disability Reconfigures Deliberative Democratic Norms (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1451092

Contact Information

Stacy Clifford (Contact Author)
Vanderbilt University ( email )
Nashville, TN 37240
United States
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