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Deliberation and Democracy: Innovative Processes and Institutions


Edited By Stephen Coleman, Anna Przybylska and Yves Sintomer

As our experience regarding the practice of deliberation grows, the position from which we evaluate it, and the criteria of this evaluation, change. This book presents a synthesis of recent research that has brought detailed and robust results. Its first section concerns contemporary challenges and new approaches to the public sphere. The second focuses on the Deliberative Poll as a specific deliberative technique and compares findings emanating from this practice in various political and cultural contexts. The third section addresses the challenge of determining what constitutes deliberative quality. Finally, the last section discusses democratic deliberation and deliberative democracy as they relate to the complex challenges of contemporary politics.
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James Fishkin - Chapter Five. Reviving Deliberative Democracy: Reflections on Recent Experiments


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James Fishkin

Chapter Five. Reviving Deliberative Democracy: Reflections on Recent Experiments


A central problem of democratic theory—and practice—has long been how to adapt a certain form of interpersonal communication— deliberation—to the large scale nation state: How to bring face to face deliberation both to the public dialogue, and to the decision processes of states or jurisdictions involving many thousands or millions of people. The problem arises because democratic values include not only deliberation, but also another key principle—political equality. And our principal strategies for implementing political equality have, in fact, undermined deliberation. The research program I call Deliberative Polling is an empirical investigation into institutional designs that attempt to combine both these values for public consultation.

This problem is really as old as democracy itself. We want to consider the views of all citizens equally—as required by political equality—but we want to do so when they have had good conditions for deliberating about them together—for considering opposing points of view and becoming informed on the issues they are consulted about. The outlines of a promising solution to this problem can be found in a form of democracy practiced in Ancient Athens, which got largely lost in the dust of history for more than two millennia.


Athens is often thought of as the home of direct democracy, but the pnyx, the hill where the Assembly met could...

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