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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: August 2013

9 - Deliberation, domination and decision-making

Summary

This chapter interrogates those feminist critiques of deliberative democracy that have focused on the abstraction, impartiality and rationality of mainstream accounts of deliberation. I will explore the claim, common to many of these critiques, that these features are problematic because gendered, and that a more women-friendly account of democracy would embrace corporeality, contextuality and the affective. I will suggest that the pursuit of social justice and democratic inclusion nonetheless leads many feminists to embrace a modified account of deliberative democracy. They do so because they need the dialogical conception of impartiality that it offers. I will signal that this is a positive move, to be more widely acknowledged. I will also suggest that this acknowledgement should lead to a more explicit interrogation of what the pursuit of dialogic impartiality might entail, focusing on the criteria of ‘lack of bias’ and ‘inclusivity’. The requirement of inclusivity should, I argue, generate a more empirical concern with the institutional and material conditions for securing inclusion in deliberation, and for ensuring that this deliberation actually shapes democratic decision-making in discernible ways.

I will suggest that deliberative democrats don’t actually offer a model of democracy, because while they offer an account of how important it is to develop inclusive and vibrant informal public spheres for deliberation to supplement the formal institutions of representative government, they do not offer a sustained account about how these informal public spheres are to engage with the formal public sphere of government. I will suggest that deliberative democrats ought to pay greater attention to the relation between deliberation and decision-making, and that this will entail addressing pragmatic questions of institutional design.

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Phillips, Anne, The Politics of Presence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), p. 147
Young, Iris M., Communication and the Other: Beyond Deliberative Democracy, in Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political, ed. Benhabib, Seyla (Princeton University Press, 1996), pp. 120–36
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