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Opinion Change, Meta-Consensus and Problem Solving: The Desirable Outcomes of Deliberation

Civil Society
Conflict Resolution
Public Policy
Gianfranco Pomatto
Università degli Studi di Torino
Gianfranco Pomatto
Università degli Studi di Torino
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Abstract

Empirical research has largely highlighted that real deliberative processes are hardly able to completely adhere to the ideals of deliberative theory. In order to evaluate the distance of real processes from the normative theory, existing studies on the quality of deliberation generally focus on procedural aspects (for examples regarding the kind of actors who took part to the process) or on relational aspects (like the level of respect among participants). They are important attributes of deliberative processes, however they are not sufficient to really distinguish which processes have a high deliberative quality and which not. The paper suggests that what is crucial to evaluate the quality of deliberation is also to adopt a substantive perspective, that focuses on the capacity of the process to produce ‘desirable’ outcomes. According to the literature, deliberation might produce three kinds of desirable outcomes: opinion changes as results of new information and arguing; meta-consensus on the legitimacy of different normative values or on the predictable effects and possible alternatives of a specific choice; mutual gaining solutions deriving from the assumption of a problem solving perspective. The paper presents the findings of a comparative analysis between two citizens’ juries, held in Italy in 2011, the former focused on the federal reform of Italian regions; the latter focused on an environmental issue: the building of a new waste pyrogasifier in a small tuscan village. A combination of different research methods has been implemented: direct observation, content analysis of the speech acts, in depth interviews to the participants.