Parkinson, John Richard
This thesis explores issues of legitimacy in the theory and practice of deliberative
democracy. The starting point is two problems which arise in classical accounts of
deliberation. First, if legitimacy depends on the give and take of reasons between free
and equal citizens, how can the results of a deliberative moment be legitimate for those who did not take part, when in complex societies there will always be many more outsiders than insiders? Second, there are problems to do with...[Show more] motivations which mean that people may choose not to deliberate even if they can. The thesis begins by criticising the standard deliberative conception of legitimacy as being too narrow, then expands on it to include two different means of establishing links between participants and non-participants: representation and the publicity principle. The former helps by allowing a legitimate basis for including relatively few participants; the latter helps by greatly expanding the institutional possibilities of
deliberative democracy, moving away from a reliance on small, self-contained forums
and towards a "deliberative system". Having established a set of ideals, I then examine how three key features of the theoretical solution play out in real deliberations, using four deliberative experiments in the UK's National Health Service. One of the reasons why legitimacy is problematic in that context is a conflict between bureaucratic and deliberative imperatives, and so it should not be surprising that legitimacy problems plague some attempts to use deliberation in a liberal state. In chapter four I show how competing representation claims are used as strategic weapons in real policy conflicts, but argue that different claims have strengths and
weaknesses depending on context. This has implications for the kind of process used
at different points of a policy debate, particularly with regards to participant selection. In chapter five I argue that publicity lessens our reliance on problematic
representative solutions, but presents difficulties of its own, largely because there are fundamental, structural barriers to the free exchange of communication such that the media can only transmit quite a narrow range of arguments. In chapter six, I show how disagreements over who and what counts as reasonable adds further complications, highlighting both the positive and negative contributions made by
rhetoric and publicity and the varying ability of different deliberative models to
handle the tensions. I conclude that while we may have to give up on the idea of a perfectly legitimate deliberative institution, it may be possible to connect several different types of institution, operating at different stages of a decision making process, to create legitimate agreements. I sketch what such a deliberative system might look like, before closing with recommendations for further research.
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