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Deliberative Democracy in Habermas and Nino

22 Oxford J. Legal Stud. 189-226 (2002) (Revised)

34 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2013  

Ángel R. Oquendo

University of Connecticut - School of Law

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Date Written: July 26, 2013


Habermas and Nino see human rights not as an external constraint on popular sovereignty, but rather as a key ingredient of true democracy. Nonetheless, Habermas asserts that democratic deliberation involves moral, ethical, pragmatic, and negotiated matters, while Nino reduces democracy to moral deliberation. Habermas’s theory thus is more complex and takes more seriously the possibility that deliberative democracy may vary across societies. All the same, Habermas excessively limits the extent of legitimate variability inasmuch as he shares with Nino the conviction that moral reasons are universal and ultimately decisive.

Habermas and Nino converge, more fundamentally, when they exclude the non-deliberative (and non-dialogic) aspects of the democratic process. It is a mistake to disregard these elements or to characterize them as oblique manifestations of deliberation. By taking these features into account, a picture of democracy gains in plausibility and opens up additional space for diversity in democratic theory and practice.

Keywords: Habermas, Nino, Human Rights, Democracy, Deliberative Democracy, Morality, Ethics, Legitimacy, Politics, Emotions

Suggested Citation

Oquendo, Ángel R. mname, Deliberative Democracy in Habermas and Nino (July 26, 2013). 22 Oxford J. Legal Stud. 189-226 (2002) (Revised). Available at SSRN: or

Ángel R. Oquendo (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

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