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Understanding the Reflective Capabilities of Citizens and its Role in Deliberative Capacity

Political Methodology
Political Participation
Political Psychology
Political Theory
Simon Niemeyer
Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra
Simon Niemeyer
Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra
Julia Jennstål
Uppsala Universitet

Abstract

Deliberative capacity, according to Dryzek (2009) entails the deliberativeness, inclusiveness and consequentiality of citizens input into the political process. Deliberativeness in particular involves a process in which citizens engage in forms of reasoning in which they are open to alternative arguments as they reflect on the issue at hand. But this is easier said than done. Certainly there is considerable evidence that it is at least possible to induce something broadly construed as deliberation in specific contexts such a deliberative minipublics, but there is a question about how this translates into “real world” settings habituated by those beyond the few who are willing and able to participate in formal deliberative processes. This paper seeks to address this gap by conceptualising the idea of reflective capacity of citizens in everyday settings and the capabilities, processes and contexts that impact on their willingness and ability to engage in deliberative behaviour. It begins by developing the idea of reflective capacity and its role in contributing to the deliberativeness of public engagement. While the paper is largely conceptual, it draws on empirical evidence from deliberative experiments and political psychology to identify the main characteristics that contribute to reflective capacity. The ultimate objective is to understand the factors — institutional, developmental, contextual — that contribute to reflective capacity to enable analysis of how particular policies and settings might improve the deliberativeness of the system as a whole.