Sunday, 14 August 2011

Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy

Joshua Cohen gives an account for an ideal deliberative procedure in Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy (from The Good Polity (1989)). This overview is another quick summary of paragraphs and sections.

  1. "A deliberative democracy is.. an association whose affairs are governed by the public deliberation of its members"
  2. "Democratic politics involves public deliberation focused on the common good, requires some form of manifest equality among citizens, and shapes the identity and interests of citizens in ways that contribute to formation of a public conception of the good"
  3. Cohen doesn't think that these three features (2) are 'natural sequences' of the ideal of fairness
  4. These features are arrived at by trying to instantiate an ideal of fairness whilst taking into account psychological and sociological assumptions (e.g. self-interest over collective interest, entrenched privilege, etc)
  5. Cohen doesn't think this (4) is good enough, as it is too indirect and instrumental a reason. Rather we arrive at (2) based on building an ideal of public deliberation
  6. Ideal deliberation:
    1. Is free. Free to deliberate (freed of prior norms), and free to implement the outcome and that the fact of an outcome is sufficient to comply with it
    2. Deliberation is reasoned (deliberation occurs). Here we can refer to Rawls' burdens of reason. 
    3. Parties are equal formally (as per rule and convention) and substantially (actually free without constraints, e.g. vested interests and the like)
    4. It aims to reach a consensus
  7. Public deliberation focuses the debate on the common good. "While I may take my preferences as a sufficient reason for advancing a proposal, deliberation under conditions of pluralism requires that I find reasons that make the proposal acceptable to others who cannot be expected to regard my preferences as sufficient reason for agreeing."
One of the possible objections that Cohen tackles is of injustice. His defence is roughly to analogous to the robust defence of liberal constraints that "liberal constraints are there to maximise liberty for all". Cohen's defence appears to be (obviously given here in rough form) that democracy is served by liberal values, e.g. free expression allows for the maximisation of deliberation, and therefore it is wrong (invalid?) for democratic decision making to reduce these liberal values. This argument takes liberal values to be instrumental in realising deliberative democracy.

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