AbstractsPolitical Science

Deliberative Democracy and the Problem of the Differend

by Joonas Martikainen

Institution: University of Helsinki
Year: 2015
Keywords: Käytännöllinen filosofia
Record ID: 1133085
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/153305


Deliberative democracy is a branch of political theory that takes the ideal of public deliberation between citizens as the best way to conduct public affairs. This thesis explores the exclusionary implications of conceptions of deliberative democracy that aim towards reaching consensus. As a corrective, I present an alternative conception of democracy that takes difference and antagonism as constitutive of the political. I will use Jean-François Lyotard’s concept of the differend as a critical tool for normative assessment of deliberative processes, and present a conception of communicative democracy, based mainly on the writings of Iris Marion Young, as a credible starting point for politics that aims towards solving differends by greater inclusion of group difference into politics. I take as my method that of critical theory, understood as normative analysis that takes as its starting point existing social processes and aims to construct an account of them that is both descriptive and prescriptive, aiming to reveal hidden normative possibilities inherent in them. This thesis consists of an introduction and four chapters. The first one explores the concept of the differend, understood as the problem of systemic distortions in political communication making expressing some experiences of injustice impossible. The second chapter presents a standard model of deliberative democracy based on the writings of Joshua Cohen, and then shows how its normative conditions of consensus, unity, reasonable argument and a focus on the common good result in the formation of differends by precluding inclusion of difference. The third chapter then presents an account of communicative democracy as an amendment to the standard model of deliberative democracy. To this end I use and comment on the thought of Iris Marion Young, Chantal Mouffe and Susan Bickford, among others. This account takes antagonism and group difference as constitutive of the political, and aims towards greater political inclusion of groups that are excluded from deliberation by structural relations of privilege and disadvantage. Commenting on discussion around culture in political theory, an account of social groups based on writings of Iris Marion Young is given that refuses to use cultural identity as its basis. Instead, group difference is conceptualized as a structurally constituted and situated phenomenon that must be reflected in politics through the inclusion of differently situated group perspectives into deliberative processes. Structural injustice leads to formation of differends in deliberative processes, and I claim that inclusion of situated perspectives into deliberation through the communicative modes of greeting, rhetoric and narratives are a way towards solving them. I also explore Paul Healy’s suggestion of replacing the deliberative template with the notion of transformative dialogue. In the fourth chapter I briefly discuss Iris Marion Young’s essay ‘Activist Challenges to Deliberative Democracy’ (2001) to explore the limits of deliberation as a…