Summer 2017

Inequality is Always in the Room: Language & Power in Deliberative Democracy

Arthur Lupia and Anne Norton

Deliberative democracy has the potential to legitimize collective decisions. Deliberation’s legitimating potential, however, depends on whether those who deliberate truly enter as equals, whether they are able to express on equal terms their visions of the common good, and whether the forms that govern deliberative assemblies advance or undermine their goals. Here, Arthur Lupia and Anne Norton examine these sources of deliberation’s legitimating potential, and contend that even in situations of apparent equality, deliberation is limited by its potential to increase power asymmetries. They conclude by describing how deliberative contexts could be modified to reduce certain types of power asymmetries, such as those often associated with gender, race, or class.

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