Democratic Deliberation Within

Robert E. Goodin

in Reflective Democracy

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780199256174
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599354 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Political Theory

Democratic Deliberation Within

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The focus of deliberative democrats is ordinarily on deliberation in its ‘external‐collective’ aspect, but deliberation also has an ‘internal‐reflective’ aspect to it, which consists of the weighing of reasons for and against a course of action; in that sense, it can and ultimately must take place within the head of each individual, even in external‐collective settings. Deliberative democrats suppose that outcomes will be democratically legitimate only in so far as they emerge through external‐collective processes of deliberation involving a free and equal exchange among everyone who will be affected by them, and that ideal seems eminently feasible in small‐scale societies, but in large‐scale mass societies, they are not and cannot be. The challenge facing deliberative democrats is thus to find some way of adapting their deliberative ideals to large‐scale society, where it is not feasible to arrange face‐to‐face discussions across the entire community; solutions to that problem are not easily found. After briefly surveying various flawed attempts to rescue external‐collective forms of deliberative democracy from the problems of time, numbers, and distance, the author offers a counterproposal: that we ease the burdens of deliberative democracy in mass society by altering our focus from the ‘external‐collective’ to the ‘internal‐reflective’ mode, shifting much of the work of democratic deliberation to within the head of each individual; deliberation, on this account, is less a matter of making people ‘conversationally present’ and more a matter of making them ‘imaginatively present’ in the minds of deliberators. The different sections of the chapter are: Two Types of Deliberation; Unsuccessful Adaptations—[of deliberative democracy in large‐scale mass societies]; Another Approach: Deliberation Within; Dangers of Internal Deliberation; Informing the Democratic Imagination; and From Democratic Deliberation to Democratic Legitimacy.

Keywords: deliberative democracy; democratic deliberation within; democratic legitimacy; external‐collective deliberation; internal‐reflective deliberation; large‐scale society; value democracy

Chapter.  10410 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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