Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Participatory versus Deliberative Democracy: You Can’t Have Both

One of the glaring gaps in this area is the lack of hard data (or at least any data that’s been more rigorously culled) as to whether citizen-centered efforts enhance the civic proclivities and engagement of entire communities over the long-term. In Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative versus Participatory Democracy, Diane Mutz, A. Stouffer Professor of Political Science and Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, attempts to close this gap by combining political theory with empirical research on how and whether deliberation among groups of people who disagree enhances or quells democracy. She concludes that the two lofty goals of active citizenship and careful deliberation are incompatible...

This conclusion dovetails with questions raised above about whether civic engagement is spurred by an interest in specific issues or causes or whether it is diminished by activism that is generated by self-selected groups of advocates who may have little or no interest in hearing different opinions, even moderate views. At the same time, it questions whether public deliberation is any better, given her assertion that only 23 percent of Americans say they could recall having a political conversation with someone who disagreed with them.

Is it really true that we have to choose between one or the other?

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