Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-zlj4b Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-03-02T03:08:16.066Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Non-deliberative politics in deliberative democracy: distinct approaches for different actors

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 June 2017

Andrea Felicetti*
Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore, Firenze, Italy
Get access


This article advances one of the most important debates in recent scholarship on democratic theory: the one on deliberative systems. In the wake of the systemic turn deliberative scholars agree that not all components of a deliberative system can or even need to be deliberative. However, there is little clarity about the role of non-deliberative politics in a system and to what extent these are justifiable while we seek a more deliberative society. In this paper I first illustrate the main ideas of the systemic turn, explore the distinction between ‘deliberative’ and ‘non-deliberative’ politics and investigate the main arguments justifying non-deliberative politics. Then, I build upon these arguments to shed new light on the relationship between deliberative and non-deliberative politics. I identify three distinctive actors in deliberative systems (political institutions, empowered agents, and public space actors). Finally, I argue that deliberative democrats should adopt three different approaches (intensive, moderate, and free) in order to assess whether the use of non-deliberative politics by each of these actors is legitimate.

Research Article
© Società Italiana di Scienza Politica 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Bächtiger, A., Grönlund, K. and Setälä, M. (eds) (2014), Towards a New Era of Deliberative Mini-Publics, Colchester, UK: ECPR Press.Google Scholar
Bächtiger, A., Niemeyer, S., Neblo, M., Steenbergen, M.R. and Steiner, J. (2010), ‘Disentangling diversity in deliberative democracy: competing theories, their blind spots and complementarities’, Journal of Political Philosophy 18: 3263.Google Scholar
Bäckstrand, K. (2006), ‘Multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development: rethinking legitimacy, accountability and effectiveness’, Environmental Policy and Governance 16: 290306.Google Scholar
Barber, B.R. (2003), Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age, Oakland, US: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Chambers, S. (2003), ‘Deliberative democratic theory’, Annual Review of Political Science 6: 307326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chambers, S. (2009), ‘Rhetoric and the public sphere has deliberative democracy abandoned mass democracy?’, Political Theory 37: 323350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chambers, S. (2012), ‘Deliberation and mass democracy’, in: J. Parkinson and J. Mansbridge (eds), Deliberative Systems, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 5271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, J. (1989), ‘Deliberation and democratic legitimacy’, Debates in Contemporary Political Philosophy, 6792.Google Scholar
Cohen, J. (1997), ‘Procedure and substance in deliberative democracy’, in J. Bohman and W. Rehg (eds), Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics, Cambridge, MA: the MIT Press, pp. 407438.Google Scholar
Collignon, S. (2007), ‘The three sources of legitimacy for European fiscal policy’, International Political Science Review 28: 155184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Curato, N. (2012), ‘A sequential analysis of democratic deliberation’, Acta Politica 47(4): 423442.Google Scholar
Crespy, A. (2014), ‘Deliberative democracy and the legitimacy of the European Union: a reappraisal of conflict’, Political Studies 62: 8198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
della Porta, D. (2015), Social Movements in Times of Austerity: Bringing Capitalism Back Into Protest Analysis, Hobocken, US: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
della Porta, D. and Rucht, D. (eds) (2013), Meeting Democracy. Power and Deliberation in Global Justice Movements , Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dodge, J. (2015), ‘The deliberative potential of civil society organizations: framing hydraulic fracturing in New York’, Policy Studies 36(3): 249266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dryzek, J.S. (2000), Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics, Contestation, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Dryzek, J.S. (2001), ‘Legitimacy and economy in deliberative democracy’, Political Theory 29: 651669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dryzek, J.S. (2009), ‘Democratization as deliberative capacity building’, Comparative Political Studies 42: 13791402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dryzek, J.S. (2010), Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Dryzek, J.S. (2013), ‘The deliberative democrat’s idea of justice’, European Journal of Political Theory (12)4: 329346.Google Scholar
Dryzek, J.S. (2016), ‘Symposium commentary: reflections on the theory of deliberative systems’, Critical Policy Studies 10: 209215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dryzek, J.S., Downes, D., Hunold, C. and Schlosberg, D. (2003), Green States and Social Movements: Environmentalism in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Norway, Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elstub, S. and Mclaverty, P. (2014), Deliberative Democracy: Issues and Cases, Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
Elstub, S., Ercan, S. and Mendonça, R.F. (2016), ‘Editorial introduction: the fourth generation of deliberative democracy’, Critical Policy Studies 10(2): 139151.Google Scholar
Felicetti, A. (2013), ‘Localism and the transition movement’, Policy Studies 34: 559574.Google Scholar
Felicetti, A. (2016), Deliberative Democracy and Social Movements. Transition Initiatives in the Public Sphere, New York and London: Rowman and Littlefield International.Google Scholar
Fishkin, J. (2009), When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Fung, A. (2005), ‘Deliberation before the revolution toward an ethics of deliberative democracy in an unjust world’, Political Theory 33: 397419.Google Scholar
Goodin, R.E. (2005), ‘Sequencing deliberative moments’, Acta Politica 40: 182196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gutmann, A. and Thompson, D. (2009), Why Deliberative Democracy?, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Habermas, J. (1989), The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society, Boston, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
Habermas, J. (1996), Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Konieczny, P. (2009), ‘Wikipedia: community or social movement’, Interface 1: 212232.Google Scholar
Kuyper, J. (2015), ‘Democratic deliberation in the modern world: the systemic turn’, Critical Review 27(1): 4963.Google Scholar
Kuyper, J. (2016), ‘Systemic representation: democracy, deliberation, and nonelectoral representatives’, American Political Science Review (110)2: 308324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mansbridge, J.J. (1994), ‘Using power/fighting power’, Constellations 1: 5373.Google Scholar
Mansbridge, J.J. (1999), ‘Everyday talk in the deliberative system’, in S. Macedo (ed.), Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 211242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mansbridge, J.J. (2010), ‘The deliberative system disaggregated’. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Conference, Washington, DC, 2-5 September.Google Scholar
Mansbridge, J.J., Bohman, J., Chambers, S., Estlund, D., Føllesdal, A., Fung, A., Lafont, C. and Manin, B. (2010), ‘The place of self-interest and the role of power in deliberative democracy’, Journal of Political Philosophy 18: 64100.Google Scholar
Mansbridge, J.J., Bohman, J., Chambers, S., Christiano, T., Fung, A., Parkinson, J.R., Thompson, D.F. and Warren, M.E. (2012), ‘A systemic approach to deliberative democracy’, in J. Parkinson and J. Mansbridge (eds), Deliberative Systems. Deliberative Democracy at the Large Scale, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 126.Google Scholar
Mendonça, R.F. (2016), ‘Mitigating systemic dangers: the role of connectivity inducers in a deliberative system’, Critical Policy Studies 10: 171190.Google Scholar
Moore, A. (2016), ‘Deliberative elitism? Distributed deliberation and the organization of epistemic inequality.Critical Policy Studies 10: 191208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Neblo, M. (2005), ‘Thinking through democracy: between the theory and practice of deliberative politics’, Acta Politica 40: 169181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Owen, D. and Smith, G. (2014), ‘Deliberative systems and the ideal of deliberative democracy’. Politics and International Studies Departmental Seminar Series, University of Warwick.Google Scholar
Owen, D. and Smith, G. (2015), ‘Survey article: deliberation, democracy, and the systemic turn’, Journal of Political Philosophy 23: 213234.Google Scholar
Parkinson, J. (2003), ‘Legitimacy problems in deliberative democracy’, Political Studies 51: 180196.Google Scholar
Parkinson, J. (2006), Deliberating in the Real World: Problems of Legitimacy in Deliberative Democracy, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Parkinson, J. (2012), ‘Democratizing deliberative systems’, in J. Parkinson and J. Mansbridge (eds), Deliberative Systems, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 151172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Parkinson, J. and Mansbridge, J. (eds) (2012), Deliberative Systems, New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pateman, C. (2012), ‘Participatory democracy revisited’, Perspectives on Politics 10: 719.Google Scholar
Pettit, P. (1997), Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Prosser, B., Renwick, A., Giovannini, A., Sandford, M., Flinders, M., Jennings, W., Smith, G., Spada, P., Stoker, G. and Ghose, K. (2017), ‘Citizen participation and changing governance: cases of devolution in England’, Policy & Politics 45(2): 251269.Google Scholar
Rawls, J. (1993), Political Liberalism, New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Rawls, J. (2009), A Theory of Justice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Smith, W. (2016), ‘The boundaries of a deliberative system: the case of disruptive protest’, Critical Policy Studies 10: 152170.Google Scholar
Steiner, J. (2004), Deliberative Politics in Action: Analyzing Parliamentary Discourse, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Steiner, J. (2008), ‘Concept stretching: the case of deliberation’, European Political Science 7: 186190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steiner, J. (2012), The Foundations of Deliberative Democracy: Empirical Research and Normative Implications, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Stevenson, H. and Dryzek, J.S. (2012a), ‘The discursive democratisation of global climate governance’, Environmental Politics 21: 189210.Google Scholar
Stevenson, H. and Dryzek, J.S. (2012b), ‘The legitimacy of multilateral climate governance: a deliberative democratic approach’, Critical Policy Studies 6: 118.Google Scholar
Talisse, R.B. (2005), ‘Deliberativist responses to activist challenges: a continuation of Young’s dialectic’, Philosophy and Social Criticism 31: 423444.Google Scholar
Thompson, D.F. (2008), ‘Deliberative democratic theory and empirical political science’, Annual Review of Political Science 11: 497520.Google Scholar
Young, I.M. (1985), ‘Impartiality and the civic public: some implications of feminist critiques of moral and political theory’, Praxis International (4): 381401.Google Scholar
Young, I.M. (2000), Inclusion and Democracy, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Young, I.M. (2001), ‘Activist challenges to deliberative democracy’, Debating Deliberative Democracy 29: 102120.Google Scholar