Posted: 5 Oct 2004
It is now widely accepted as an ideal that democracy should be as deliberative as possible. Democracy should not involve a tussle between different interest groups or lobbies in which the numbers matter more than the arguments. And it should not be a system in which the only arguments that matter are those that voters conduct in an attempt to determine where their private or sectional advantage lies. Democracy, it is said, should promote public deliberation among citizens and authorities as to what does best for the society as a whole and should elicit decision-making on that basis. But the ideal of deliberative democracy has two components - the deliberative and the democratic - and often they pull apart. In this paper I look in the first section at a series of problems that arise on the deliberative front, arguing that their resolution requires various degrees of depoliticization. And then I ask in the second whether the depoliticizing responses that those problems require are antithetical to the ideal of democracy. I argue that they are not in tension with the ideal, if that ideal is cast in the relatively revisionary, two-dimensional form that I favour.
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