Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2004
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 20A

Democracy & Disobedience

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


Who's Afraid of
Deliberative Democracy?

The question is simple and straight-forward; the answer (perhaps) less so:

    "Make a case for or against making the democracy
    more deliberative, think of several strong objections
    to your argument and respond to them?"

In asking the question, I choose my words carefully. I speak of "the democracy" to leave open the possibility of your having a fairly expansive understanding of what a term such as "democracy" means. For some democracy includes not only those political institutions that specifically carry out its functions, but any number of "other" social institutions and practices that support and help to further its aims, such as a free and questioning press. Thus, Peter Levine, whose essay "Getting Practical About Deliberative Democracy" is reproduced below, argues for a more deliberative journalism as part and parcel of nudging democracy in a more deliberative direction. I do not mean to encourage you to be vague, but to be open to thinking about activities and practices that you believe are necessary to make a more meaningful kind of democratic politics possible. One question, therefore, that you may find yourself addressing as a direct outgrowth of the "simple, straight-forward" question is: how far should deliberative democracy extend?

The basic question, however, is a simple one. Are you for or against making the democracy more deliberative? If so, why? If not, why not? If so, how would you respond to critics of deliberative democracy? If not, how would you respond to its proponents? In the course of respondng to objections and criticisms, you may wish to give some thought to how you might modify your conception of deliberative democracy to accommodate this or that objection or criticism and ask yourself (subsequently) whether you do or do not support this new modified (revised) form of deliberative democracy.

Obviously, in the course of coming up with an answer to the "simple" question you will need to say a word or two about what deliberative democracy means. Arguments for and against deliberative democracy will make sense and take hold only against a conception of what's "deliberative" about deliberative democracy.

Gonna Vote 2004

Here you will be helped by the positive account put forward in the readings. Deliberative Politics edited by Stepehn Macedo contains essays that "probe the value and limits of deliberative democracy as such." The primary concern of the contributors is not to defend deliberative democracy or to think of it in a sympathetic light, but to examine critically its importance and feasibility. But the positive account given by Gutmann and Thompson is fairly neatly and clearly summarized by Macedo in his "Introduction," see pages 5 - 10, and there is, of course, Gutmann's and Thompson's reply to their critics at the end, see pages 243 - 279.

For a postive account Macedo's five page summary is an excellent place to start, but an even better place to start is to begin with Peter Levine's "Getting Practical About Deliberative Democracy," where he not only defends a more deliberative politics but gives several contemporary examples as well as makes specific proposals for reform.


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Last Modified: 08/26/04
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