Pluralism Slippery Slopes and Democratic Public Discourse

Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory, Forthcoming

32 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2013 Last revised: 14 Oct 2013

See all articles by Maria Paola Ferretti

Maria Paola Ferretti

Darmstadt University of Technology

Enzo Rossi

University of Amsterdam

Date Written: October 9, 2013


Agonist theorists have argued against deliberative democrats that democratic institutions should not seek to establish a rational consensus, but rather allow political disagreements to be expressed in an adversarial form. But democratic agonism is not antagonism: some restriction of the plurality of admissible expressions is not incompatible with a legitimate public sphere. However, is it generally possible to grant this distinction between antagonism and agonism without accepting normative standards in public discourse that saliently resemble those advocated by (some) deliberative democrats? In this paper we provide an analysis of one important aspect of political communication, the use of slippery slope arguments, and show that the fact of pluralism weakens the agonists’ case for contestation as a sufficient ingredient for appropriately democratic public discourse. We illustrate that contention by identifying two specific kinds of what we call pluralism slippery slopes, i.e. mechanisms whereby pluralism reinforces the efficacy of slippery slope arguments.

Keywords: agonism, realism, deliberative democracy, pluralism, slippery slope arguments

Suggested Citation

Ferretti, Maria Paola and Rossi, Enzo, Pluralism Slippery Slopes and Democratic Public Discourse (October 9, 2013). Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Maria Paola Ferretti (Contact Author)

Darmstadt University of Technology ( email )

Darmstadt, Hesse D-64289

Enzo Rossi

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Department of Political Science
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 237
Amsterdam, 1012 DL


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