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Eight - Deliberative Mini-Publics in Democratic Systems

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 April 2023

Nicole Curato
Affiliation:
University of Canberra
David Farrell
Affiliation:
University College Dublin
Brigitte Geissel
Affiliation:
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt Am Main
Kimmo Grönlund
Affiliation:
Åbo Akademi University, Finland
Patricia Mockler
Affiliation:
Queen's University, Ontario
Jean-Benoit Pilet
Affiliation:
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Alan Renwick
Affiliation:
University College London
Jonathan Rose
Affiliation:
Queen's University, Ontario
Maija Setälä
Affiliation:
University of Turku, Finland
Jane Suiter
Affiliation:
Dublin City University
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Summary

Introduction

The increasing popularity of DMPs raises expectations as to what these forums can achieve. A Financial Times editorial declared that ‘deliberative democracy is just what politics needs’, referring to the power of citizens’ assemblies to address political polarization (The Financial Times, 2019). A year later, an editorial in The Guardian echoed the same sentiment, calling for ‘deliberation, not confusion’ as it spotlighted the UK's first climate assembly (The Guardian, 2020). Calls for various forms of democratic innovations emerged in the early days of the pandemic as societies imagined what it would take to make the ‘new normal’ work for all.

The increasing calls for DMPs are testament to the normative force as well as empirical track record of these forums. However, we are cautious not to pitch DMPs as a panacea that can revive democracy in challenging times. In this chapter, we take the position that DMPs are best appreciated as forums in democratic systems. This means two things. First, DMPs are not an end to themselves, but one of many potential practices that fulfil particular democratic functions, like elections, representation and exit, among others (Warren, 2017). We find that DMPs are helpful in facilitating collective will formation due to these forums’ design features but less so for collectively binding decision-making due to the lack of accountability of DMPs to those affected by their recommendations. Second, appreciating DMPs as forums within democratic systems means linking democratic deliberation with other practices of participatory decision-making. In this chapter, we take a close look at two empirical examples – the Irish Citizens’ Assembly and Ostbelgien modell – to demonstrate how DMPs can be meaningfully linked to institutions of representative democracy.

While this book focuses on core design features, we find it necessary to present an extended discussion on the wider purpose of DMPs to clarify these forums’ relationship with existing institutions of representative democracy. Viewed this way, we offer a measured appreciation of the transformative power of DMPs. We recognize that DMPs are not always the best option in solving democracy's problems, and the challenge lies in determining the precise ways in which DMPs can contribute to democratic reform.

DMPs and democracy's functions

We begin our discussion by taking a step back and thinking about the problems that a political system needs to solve to count as democratic.

Type
Chapter
Information
Deliberative Mini-Publics
Core Design Features
, pp. 116 - 126
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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