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Deliberation and Democracy: Innovative Processes and Institutions

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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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Elżbieta Wesołowska - Chapter Eleven. Group Processes in Deliberative Setting. Qualitative Analysis

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Elżbieta Wesołowska

Chapter Eleven. Group Processes in Deliberative Setting. Qualitative Analysis

Introduction

Numerous authors have recognized the importance of group dynamics within the process of deliberation. Wiliamson and Fung (2004, 4) reported “huge variation in the quality of deliberation within the venues that aim to produce it.” Mendelberg (2002) remarks that group level forces may stimulate or work against deliberation. Sunstein (2002) speculates that different group dynamics might result in the polarization in some of the deliberating groups, but not in others. Ryfe (2002) postulates that deliberation processes deserve careful investigation and should not be treated as a “black box.” However, the dynamics of the deliberation process under real conditions remains an understudied phenomenon. The reason for this might be that a methodology for such a study has not been sufficiently developed.

The most common approach found in empirical research on deliberation is focused on preconditions of deliberation (sometimes called ‘inputs’), such as the socio-demographic characteristics of participants; the characteristics of deliberative institutions, such as parliaments or chambers (Steiner et al. 2004); institutional arrangements aimed at fostering deliberative social interactions (Landwehr and Holzinger 2010); or organizational arrangements (such as the kind of facilitation or experimental conditions).

The group process of deliberation itself is often taken for granted. It is expected that within some favourable conditions deliberation will take place. Researchers adopting this approach mostly study the outcomes of the deliberative process at the individual level,...

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