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Deliberative Democracy on Consensus - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 160
Consensus/Deliberative democracy/Bohman: for some proponents of deliberative democracy, a strong distinction between reasoned argumentation and mere discussion provides the basis for the claim that deliberation must be oriented to consensus (Habermas, 1996(1); Cohen, 1997(2)). Deliberation is not merely discourse or dialogue, Cohen argues, because
it must be 'reasoned', that is based on 'public argument and reasoning among equal citizens' that yield the single best answer (1997(2): 74).
VsHabermas/VsCohen: Critics often charge that both of these claims are exclusionary and lead to undemocratic consequences under the
Gaus I 161
circumstance of background injustice and pervasive inequalities. It might seem that an orientation to consensus is not a requirement of deliberation, even if it may function as a regulative ideal. Deliberation must at least resemble argumentation to the extent that it is a matter of giving and asking for reasons. The reasons that make a decision acceptable ought to be distinguished from modes by which they are communicated. Democratic standards demanded for decisions need not apply to the medium of communication as such, and not all formal public spheres need to be ideally inclusive. This means that formal theories of communication and rationality cannot decide in advance precisely what modes and forms of communication are empirically appropriate in various settings. >Deliberative democracy/Dryzek, cf. >Argumentation/Crosswhite.
Gaus I 161
Bohman: (...) disagreement is precisely what makes democratic deliberation not only necessary, but also fruitful and productive when tested through the variety of perspectives typical of a diverse and pluralistic audience. Argumentative discourse need not presuppose unanimity, or seek consensus, but rather places conflicts within a mutually constructed space of reasons. >Argumentation/Crosswhite.
This fact of disagreement raises the issue of whether or not public deliberation is 'oriented to con-
sensus'. Consensus is meant here to contrast with mere aggregation of preferences in voting and with bargaining or compromise. Certainly, if democracy were only voting and bargaining, it would lack the self-critical testing and responsiveness of reason giving and discourse; the problems of the tyranny of the majority and aggregation problems of social choice would undermine the effectiveness of
Gaus I 162
Democracy and its claims to ligitimacy. >Consensus/Discourse theories.

1. Habermas, Jürgen (1996) Between Facts and Norms. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
2. Cohen, Joshua (1997) 'Deliberation and democratic legitimacy'. In J. Bohman and W. Rehg, eds, Deliberative Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bohman, James 2004. „Discourse Theory“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Deliberative Democracy
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-07-27
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