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Deliberative Democracy: Antecedents and Applications

Democracy
Governance
Political Theory
James Fishkin
Stanford University
James Fishkin
Stanford University
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Abstract

Modern efforts to develop deliberative democracy must answer some key questions: a) what is deliberation? b) who deliberates? c) if only a select group deliberates, with what authority or relevance do they do so? d) how does deliberative democracy interrogate or compete with other forms of democracy which emphasize mass participation, or electoral competition? e) what are the entry points for deliberative democratic practice to have an effect on other institutions or decisions. This paper will draw on some key cases in the history of democratic practice to illuminate both the competing values at stake in these debates and institutional suggestions for entry points or tasks for which deliberation by the people might be suitable. The ancient Athenian institutions that provide a model of deliberators chosen by lot –the Council of 500, the nomethetai, the juries will provide a precedent for combining sortition with deliberation. The debate over the American founding will provide a focus on Madison’s strategy of “successive filtrations” as contrasted with Anti-Federalist arguments tying decisions closer to the actual views of the people. The debate over the Rhode Island referendum on the US constitution will provide material for who deliberates, in what sort of institution (convention or direct participation in a referendum) and allow for reflections on the contrast between the “filter” of deliberation and the “mirror” of descriptive representation. The paper will offer institutional suggestions and draw on some contemporary cases as well, but the focus will be on using the hidden history of deliberative practices to enrich the debate about current experimentation.