Skip to main content

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

  • Andrea Felicetti (a1)

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.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Bächtiger, A., Grönlund, K. and Setälä, M. (eds) (2014), Towards a New Era of Deliberative Mini-Publics, Colchester, UK: ECPR Press.
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.
Bäckstrand, K. (2006), ‘Multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development: rethinking legitimacy, accountability and effectiveness’, Environmental Policy and Governance 16: 290306.
Barber, B.R. (2003), Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age, Oakland, US: University of California Press.
Chambers, S. (2003), ‘Deliberative democratic theory’, Annual Review of Political Science 6: 307326.
Chambers, S. (2009), ‘Rhetoric and the public sphere has deliberative democracy abandoned mass democracy?’, Political Theory 37: 323350.
Chambers, S. (2012), ‘Deliberation and mass democracy’, in: J. Parkinson and J. Mansbridge (eds), Deliberative Systems, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 5271.
Cohen, J. (1989), ‘Deliberation and democratic legitimacy’, Debates in Contemporary Political Philosophy, 6792.
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.
Collignon, S. (2007), ‘The three sources of legitimacy for European fiscal policy’, International Political Science Review 28: 155184.
Curato, N. (2012), ‘A sequential analysis of democratic deliberation’, Acta Politica 47(4): 423442.
Crespy, A. (2014), ‘Deliberative democracy and the legitimacy of the European Union: a reappraisal of conflict’, Political Studies 62: 8198.
della Porta, D. (2015), Social Movements in Times of Austerity: Bringing Capitalism Back Into Protest Analysis, Hobocken, US: John Wiley & Sons.
della Porta, D. and Rucht, D. (eds) (2013), Meeting Democracy. Power and Deliberation in Global Justice Movements , Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Dodge, J. (2015), ‘The deliberative potential of civil society organizations: framing hydraulic fracturing in New York’, Policy Studies 36(3): 249266.
Dryzek, J.S. (2000), Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics, Contestation, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Dryzek, J.S. (2001), ‘Legitimacy and economy in deliberative democracy’, Political Theory 29: 651669.
Dryzek, J.S. (2009), ‘Democratization as deliberative capacity building’, Comparative Political Studies 42: 13791402.
Dryzek, J.S. (2010), Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Dryzek, J.S. (2013), ‘The deliberative democrat’s idea of justice’, European Journal of Political Theory (12)4: 329346.
Dryzek, J.S. (2016), ‘Symposium commentary: reflections on the theory of deliberative systems’, Critical Policy Studies 10: 209215.
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.
Elstub, S. and Mclaverty, P. (2014), Deliberative Democracy: Issues and Cases, Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.
Elstub, S., Ercan, S. and Mendonça, R.F. (2016), ‘Editorial introduction: the fourth generation of deliberative democracy’, Critical Policy Studies 10(2): 139151.
Felicetti, A. (2013), ‘Localism and the transition movement’, Policy Studies 34: 559574.
Felicetti, A. (2016), Deliberative Democracy and Social Movements. Transition Initiatives in the Public Sphere, New York and London: Rowman and Littlefield International.
Fishkin, J. (2009), When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Fung, A. (2005), ‘Deliberation before the revolution toward an ethics of deliberative democracy in an unjust world’, Political Theory 33: 397419.
Goodin, R.E. (2005), ‘Sequencing deliberative moments’, Acta Politica 40: 182196.
Gutmann, A. and Thompson, D. (2009), Why Deliberative Democracy?, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Habermas, J. (1989), The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society, Boston, MA: The MIT Press.
Habermas, J. (1996), Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Konieczny, P. (2009), ‘Wikipedia: community or social movement’, Interface 1: 212232.
Kuyper, J. (2015), ‘Democratic deliberation in the modern world: the systemic turn’, Critical Review 27(1): 4963.
Kuyper, J. (2016), ‘Systemic representation: democracy, deliberation, and nonelectoral representatives’, American Political Science Review (110)2: 308324.
Mansbridge, J.J. (1994), ‘Using power/fighting power’, Constellations 1: 5373.
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.
Mansbridge, J.J. (2010), ‘The deliberative system disaggregated’. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Conference, Washington, DC, 2-5 September.
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.
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.
Mendonça, R.F. (2016), ‘Mitigating systemic dangers: the role of connectivity inducers in a deliberative system’, Critical Policy Studies 10: 171190.
Moore, A. (2016), ‘Deliberative elitism? Distributed deliberation and the organization of epistemic inequality.Critical Policy Studies 10: 191208.
Neblo, M. (2005), ‘Thinking through democracy: between the theory and practice of deliberative politics’, Acta Politica 40: 169181.
Owen, D. and Smith, G. (2014), ‘Deliberative systems and the ideal of deliberative democracy’. Politics and International Studies Departmental Seminar Series, University of Warwick.
Owen, D. and Smith, G. (2015), ‘Survey article: deliberation, democracy, and the systemic turn’, Journal of Political Philosophy 23: 213234.
Parkinson, J. (2003), ‘Legitimacy problems in deliberative democracy’, Political Studies 51: 180196.
Parkinson, J. (2006), Deliberating in the Real World: Problems of Legitimacy in Deliberative Democracy, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Parkinson, J. (2012), ‘Democratizing deliberative systems’, in J. Parkinson and J. Mansbridge (eds), Deliberative Systems, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 151172.
Parkinson, J. and Mansbridge, J. (eds) (2012), Deliberative Systems, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pateman, C. (2012), ‘Participatory democracy revisited’, Perspectives on Politics 10: 719.
Pettit, P. (1997), Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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.
Rawls, J. (1993), Political Liberalism, New York: Columbia University Press.
Rawls, J. (2009), A Theory of Justice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Smith, W. (2016), ‘The boundaries of a deliberative system: the case of disruptive protest’, Critical Policy Studies 10: 152170.
Steiner, J. (2004), Deliberative Politics in Action: Analyzing Parliamentary Discourse, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Steiner, J. (2008), ‘Concept stretching: the case of deliberation’, European Political Science 7: 186190.
Steiner, J. (2012), The Foundations of Deliberative Democracy: Empirical Research and Normative Implications, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Stevenson, H. and Dryzek, J.S. (2012a), ‘The discursive democratisation of global climate governance’, Environmental Politics 21: 189210.
Stevenson, H. and Dryzek, J.S. (2012b), ‘The legitimacy of multilateral climate governance: a deliberative democratic approach’, Critical Policy Studies 6: 118.
Talisse, R.B. (2005), ‘Deliberativist responses to activist challenges: a continuation of Young’s dialectic’, Philosophy and Social Criticism 31: 423444.
Thompson, D.F. (2008), ‘Deliberative democratic theory and empirical political science’, Annual Review of Political Science 11: 497520.
Young, I.M. (1985), ‘Impartiality and the civic public: some implications of feminist critiques of moral and political theory’, Praxis International (4): 381401.
Young, I.M. (2000), Inclusion and Democracy, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Young, I.M. (2001), ‘Activist challenges to deliberative democracy’, Debating Deliberative Democracy 29: 102120.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Italian Political Science Review / Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica
  • ISSN: 0048-8402
  • EISSN: 2057-4908
  • URL: /core/journals/italian-political-science-review-rivista-italiana-di-scienza-politica
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 27
Total number of PDF views: 120 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 525 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 19th June 2017 - 20th July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.