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Social Movements and Deliberative Democratic Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2004

Department of Political Science, University of California, Riverside


Deliberative democrats are committed both to inclusion and to barring coercion in public discourse. Their commitment to democratic inclusion should make them sympathetic to the challenges faced by social movements. An adequate sociology of contentious public discourse, however, shows that social movements must often act coercively in order to be included. For example, they must often alter the terrain of conflict, create a crisis, pressure interlocutors to argue consistently, or compel other parties to enter social arenas of contention that they have avoided. Democratic theorists who are committed to inclusion should approve of such coercion. Under the actual circumstances movements face, there is a tension between non-coercion and democratic inclusion. This tension demonstrates the need for a democratic standard and a mode of democratic social analysis beyond those that deliberative theory offers.

Research Article
© 2004 Cambridge University Press

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