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date: 29 February 2020

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy began with a conversation between John Dryzek and André Bächtiger in Canberra in February 2014, when John declared that it is about time for a Handbook on this crucial topic. While John and André agreed that there is clear demand for a comprehensive treatment of deliberative democracy, both felt that given the breadth and complexity of deliberative democracy today, the editorial team needed reinforcement. They asked Mark Warren and Jenny Mansbridge to join them, and both Jenny and Mark immediately and enthusiastically agreed. The editorial team then had a number of skype discussions about the topics to be covered in such a Handbook, leading to a proposal to Oxford University Press in Northern summer 2014. After signing the contract, we were overwhelmed with the positive reactions to our call for contributing to the Handbook: almost all authors we contacted responded positively and enthusiastically. What followed was a process of intensive engagement with the more than one hundred authors of this volume, involving deliberations between the editors and the authors, but also within the editorial team itself. It also involved, as any good process of deliberation, a lot of mutual learning. For example, none of us was aware of the full dimensions of the plural origins of the deliberative approach. When reading and engaging with the chapters as they arrived, we realized that there is far less unity in the origins of deliberative democracy than commonly thought. We have been impressed with the multiple “discoveries” of deliberative politics across disciplines that were not initially in discourse with one another—disciplines as diverse as urban planning, law, dispute resolution, economics, communications, legislative studies, public policy analysis, sociology, and environmental governance. Not all of them initially used the terms “deliberation” and “deliberative democracy,” though commonalities eventually became evident. And even though we speak—for structuring and clarifying purposes—of first- and second-generation models of deliberation in the introduction to this volume, we recognize that some first-generation pioneers (including Jürgen Habermas) had already adopted second-generation concepts in the 1990s. In a way, theoretical unity was more what students of deliberation imagined in the 2000s rather than what the theoretical pioneers had in mind when developing the concept in the 1980s and 1990s.

We hope (and believe) that the Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy provides a landmark statement of a field which has grown enormously over the past few decades in size and importance. The publication of this volume does not, of course, mean that controversies surrounding the concept of deliberation and deliberative democracy are settled; quite the contrary. A good example are the persisting (p. vi) differences (some might even say disagreements) in defining deliberation. To give some examples from the Handbook: in their chapter on catastrophic risks, Ryan Gunderson and Thomas Dietz refer to “analytical deliberation,” which draws directly from Habermas’s notion of rational discourse and emphasizes well-justified argumentation and the “forceless force of the better argument.” Similarly, in their chapter on legislatures, governments, and courts, Paul Quirk and co-authors speak of “institutional deliberation” which puts a premium on the careful evaluation of alternatives and the epistemic quality of the resulting policy decisions. By contrast, describing deliberative processes among citizens and in everyday talk, Francesca Polletta and Beth Gharrity Gardner as well as Pamela Conover and Patrick Miller make a strong case for including stories, personal experiences, and emotions in the conceptual apparatus of good deliberation in order “to make it possible for people to overcome some of the barriers to deliberation in everyday life” (Polletta and Gardner, this volume, Chapter 4). Focusing on conflict resolution, Lawrence Susskind and co-authors define deliberation as a “potentially cooperative enterprise rather than simply a battle over fixed goods or opposing values,” geared towards determining the public interest. Put differently, good deliberation here is a social process of shared and creative problem-solving. This view of deliberation contrasts with Quirk et al., who claim that while social elements of deliberation (such as mutual respect) may be potentially relevant for learning and finding agreement, they are less relevant in “institutional deliberation” where epistemic quality frequently trumps deliberation´s social dimensions. We think that the exact form of deliberative engagement depends on the goals and contexts of deliberation. It makes a difference whether the primary goals of deliberative interactions are achieving agreement or maximizing the chances of a correct decision (see Estlund and Landemore, this volume, Chapter 7); whether experts or citizens deliberate with one another; or whether deliberation happens around a kitchen table or within a legislature. Nonetheless, there is still considerable overlap among the various definitions of deliberation in the Handbook: all authors agree that good deliberation is about giving reasons (albeit that can happen in very different forms) and listening to each other’s claims, arguments, and experiences. We hope that our minimalist definition of deliberation (see our Introduction), which we conceptualize as mutual communication that involves weighing and reflecting on preferences, values and interests regarding matters of common concern, allows encapsulating the variety of deliberative forms in different contexts and for different purposes, without abandoning the idea that deliberative interactions have normatively valuable qualities that should be protected, supported, and institutionalized.

Finally, we are greatly indebted to all contributors to this volume, for their passion and diligence in writing the chapters but also for their patience in interacting with us (and reacting to our criticisms and manifold suggestions). We are particularly grateful to Jürgen Habermas, Bob Goodin, and Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, who accepted our invitation to reflect critically on the state of the art in deliberative democracy (p. vii) (including their own work). Moreover, we are immensely grateful to Seraphine Arnold, who carefully edited all fifty-eight chapters of the Handbook and helped us in putting the whole volume together. Last but not least, we are also indebted to Dominic Byatt, Sarah Parker, and Olivia Wells from Oxford University Press who accompanied the production of this huge volume from beginning to end.

AB, Stuttgart

JSD, Canberra

JM, Cambridge (MA)

MEW, Vancouver (p. viii)