Talking Politics Guide to ... Deliberative Democracy

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By Barney Brown, David Runciman, and Catherine Carr. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

David talks to Matthew Taylor about whether more deliberation could remedy some of the defects in contemporary democracy. What can deliberative democracy add to traditional forms of political representation and how might it actually work in practice?

Talking Points:

The key feature of deliberative democracy is the idea that in order to fully tap into citizens’ views of an issue, you need to give them the time, information, and range of opinion to make an informed choice.

  • The deliberative group should be a mini-public—it’s the same principle as a jury.
  • Deliberative democracy allows you to see the process as well as the outcome. Many citizens change their minds.
  • Deliberation can legitimize representative democracy and make it possible for politicians to take difficult decisions.
  • But there are drawbacks too: it takes a lot of time and it can lead to polarization.

Deliberation leads to more long term thinking and creates a sense of shared responsibility between citizens and the government.

  • Some people are suspicious that deliberative democracy is simply an attempt to get progressive politics in by another route.
  • So much of contemporary politics is about crowds, charisma, and slogans. Deliberative democracy is slow and informed.

There should have been some kind of deliberative process before Brexit.

  • There was a deliberative process before the Irish referendum, which made something that could have been incredibly divisive into a positive.
  • But it might be too late for Brexit. Politicizing deliberative democracy could undermine it.
  • Deliberative democracy needs to be a habit in order to work properly.

Deliberative democracy is a form of democracy that is attractive and uplifting.

  • It could be an antidote to the ugliness of contemporary politics.
  • Deliberation is a gateway reform: if you make it a habit, you can use deliberative methodologies to explore other kinds of democratic reforms.
  • The main barrier is ignorance, not hostility. Once people understand what deliberative democracy is, they tend to be interested.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Further Learning:

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

Set your alarms… for Sunday, when David talks to Helen about the economic order that was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. What was agreed at Bretton Woods, how did it work, why did it eventually fail, and can any of it be revived?

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