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Deliberative theory visiting parliamentary committee in Eduskunta

Jenni Marianne Rinne
University of Helsinki
Jenni Marianne Rinne
University of Helsinki
Open Panel

Abstract

Representative democracy has very much been contextualized since the 1990s in the discussion on deliberative democracy. Vote-centric, aggregative idea of democracy has been replaced by talk-centric idea (Chambers 2003, Steiner et al. 2004). At the same time counter-arguments have been raised – deliberative theory has been viewed insufficient and too idealistic to comprehend the workings of modern representative democracy. My paper explores this common critique by placing it in institutional, parliamentary context. This is done mainly by analyzing interviews of 17 Finnish MPs that focus on parliamentary committee work in Eduskunta. From the surface party model of democracy (characterized by interest aggregation) seem to grasp practical, day-to-day parliamentary work more fully. Deliberative theory’s idea that interests should be developed and refined in the process of deliberation is challenged when we consider that more often interests are pre-fixed and MPs’ opinions formed before entering discussions in the committee. This setting can be thought to limit the MPs’ individual possibilities to talk and deliberate. The purpose of this paper is to observe how deliberative democratic theory commonly perceived as an ideal model of democracy is actually transforming when contrasted and pushed towards the notion of “party democracy” (Birch 1993, Manin 1997). Pluralistic deliberation, concept that Jane Mansbridge (2006) uses, can in fact have coincidental motives and purposes. Also other recent discussions (see also Chambers 2003; Dryzek 2000; Mansbridge et al. 2010) stress that deliberation can be viewed as a process of challenging and opposing views that need not aim at consensus.. In this paper I’m developing an idea of “representative deliberation” that can comprise the before mentioned goals. Eventually deliberative theory can redeem itself from the prior normative, habermasian baggage and can truly complement our understanding of real-world politics.