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Seven - Legitimacy of Deliberative Mini-Publics

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

DMPs should be consequential. Participants who experience taking part in a mini-public may find the exercise valuable in its own right, but without impact outside the process, DMPs are at risk of becoming insignificant talking shops that do little to enhance the quality of collective decision-making. This, indeed, was one of the early concerns raised against DMPs. For Carole Pateman (2012: 9), their reach was limited, they had little influence in decision-making and the public did not know a lot about them (see also Rummens, 2016).

Fast-forward to a decade later and, today, DMPs are increasingly becoming visible in public life (see OECD, 2020). They are commissioned by national leaders like President Emmanuel Macron in France or parliamentary committees in the UK. They are part of the global environmental group Extinction Rebellion's core demands. Belgian political party Agora won a seat in the Brussels Parliament by running on the single issue of calling for a citizens’ assembly. Similarly, editorials in publications like The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Economist recognize the merits of DMPs. As the popularity of DMPs grows, the concern shifts from their insignificance to the implications of giving power to an unelected, randomly selected group of individuals.

At the heart of this issue are concerns about the legitimacy of DMPs. To what extent should DMPs shape decision-making? Should DMPs be empowered to make binding decisions? Are they better off taking an advisory role? What is the basis of DMPs’ legitimacy in the first place?

These issues, among others, point to the challenge of finding the sweet spot of ensuring that DMPs are neither too powerless, nor too powerful. This chapter examines this challenge in three parts. We begin by establishing the premise that before any mini-public should seek to influence decision-making, it should first establish its internal legitimacy. While there is no established consensus on what count as ‘legitimate’ DMPs, we can draw on a range of literature that defines what counts as good deliberation in mini-publics. We are cautious that before any calls for mini-publics’ consequentiality are made, it is necessary to first establish whether the procedure was run with integrity and demonstrated good-quality deliberation. We then turn to the second section and consider what makes DMPs legitimate from the perspective of non-participants. We draw on the growing empirical work on this topic.

Type
Chapter
Information
Deliberative Mini-Publics
Core Design Features
, pp. 105 - 115
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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