How Citizen Representatives Address the Epistemic Challenges of Democratic Citizenship
25 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
In this essay, we take a closer look at the kinds of trust judgments citizens need to be able to make in epistemic divisions of labour in democratic self-government. We distinguish kinds of political trust judgments, with a focus on the epistemic demands they place on citizens, as well sources of institutional support for citizen trust judgments, such as professional certifications and ethics. Though trust judgments have always been functionally necessary for representative democracies, the institutional conditions of trustee representation have always been weak, and the rise of the sceptical citizen has eroded the bases of deferential forms of trust. We propose that well-designed minipublics have the characteristics necessary to serve as institutional supports for citizens’ trust judgments. In particular, we review two cases in which minipublics have, in fact, functioned as trustee representatives: the British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly and the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review. These new forms of trustee representation cannot close the gap between complex societies and democratic citizenship, but they may very well narrow it.
Keywords: democracy, deliberation, heuristics, motivated reasoning, political participation, public trust
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