The Civic and Political Impacts of Discursive Participation

in Talking Together

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780226389868
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226389899 | DOI:
The Civic and Political Impacts of Discursive Participation

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What impact, if any, do public talk and deliberation have on subsequent civic and political behavior? Deliberation and other forms of public talking have been persistently downgraded as “just talk,” ineffective and perhaps a cause of citizen disengagement. A variety of research studies report that public deliberation's impact is slight or nonexistent, and may actually prompt a decline in civic and political participation. Doubts about the value and impact of deliberation stem in part from unfavorable comparisons with other forms of citizen participation that involve citizens taking concrete and observable action. This chapter, which examines the political effects of discursive participation in face-to-face forums, shows that face-to-face deliberation increases subsequent participation in civic activities, except for participation in electoral activities such as voting or working for a party or a candidate. These findings appear to support the expectation of deliberationists that public talking would invigorate civic life, although its apparent irrelevance to electoral politics may suggest an important limitation.

Keywords: public talk; forums; public deliberation; discursive participation; electoral politics; political participation; political behavior; citizen participation; civic life

Chapter.  11341 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: US Politics

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