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Why Deliberative Democracy is Different

  • Amy Gutmann (a1) and Dennis Thompson (a1)
Abstract

In modern pluralist societies, political disagreement often reflects moral disagreement, as citizens with conflicting perspectives on fundamental values debate the laws that govern their public life. Any satisfactory theory of democracy must provide a way of dealing with this moral disagreement. A fundamental problem confronting all democratic theorists is to find a morally justifiable way of making binding collective decisions in the face of continuing moral conflict.

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1 Although most substantive theories are first-order theories, and many procedural theories are second-order theories, the substantive/procedural distinction is not the same as the first-order/second-order distinction. The substantive/procedural distinction characterizes theories according to whether they justify political decisions by reference to independent moral principles or entirely by reference to features of the process. The first-order/second-order distinction classifies theories according to whether they affirm the truth of a single consistent set of (substantive or procedural) principles that exclude other such principles, or whether they refer to the principles in a way that is consistent with a range of potentially inconsistent sets (for example, by prescribing certain attitudes or conduct with regard to the principles and the persons who hold them).

2 Gutmann Amy and Thompson Dennis, Democracy and Disagreement (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996).

3 The range includes what we call “deliberative disagreements,” which are those in which citizens continue to differ about basic moral principles even though they seek a resolution that is mutually justifiable. The dispute over abortion is an example of a deliberative disagreement because both sides can justify their views within a reciprocal perspective. A dispute about racial segregation is an example of a nondeliberative disagreement because one side can be reasonably rejected within a reciprocal perspective. See Gutmann and Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement, 23, 7379.

4 Mozert v. Hawkins County Bd. of Educ., 827 F.2d 1058, 1065 (6th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1066 (1988). See Gutmann and Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement, 6369.

5 Galston William, “Diversity, Toleration, and Deliberative Democracy,” in Deliberative Politics: Essays on “Democracy and Disagreement,” ed. Macedo Stephen (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

7 Gutmann and Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement, 230–72.

8 Ibid., 277–82.

9 Ibid., 353.

10 Schauer Frederick, “Talking as a Decision Procedure,” in Deliberative Politics, ed. Macedo.

11 Gutmann and Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement, 273306.

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Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
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