ARENA Tuesday Seminar: Claudia Landwehr

At the Tuesday Seminar on 21 January 2014, Professor Claudia Landwehr from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz presented her paper 'Delegation and democratic meta-deliberation'.

(Photo: Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz)

Landwehr presented her paper which takes as a starting point the ‘deliberative paradox’. It describes the ubiquity of democratic deliberation as a mode of interaction while the composition of non-majoritarian bodies as places of deliberation is not democratic. Combining the deliberative systems perspective proposed by Mansbridge with a focus on new modes of governance and delegation, she analyses deliberative, but non-majoritarian, bodies within democratic systems.

Landwehr sees three strategies out of this paradox and presented their propositions and shortcomings. Escape route one would redefine deliberation. In this approach deliberation would be defined wider, becoming a matter of more or less (as in type I and II deliberation proposed by Bächtiger et al.) rather than a yes or no dichotomy as found in the Deliberative Quality Index (DQI). However, the DQI constitutes a comparative rather than an absolute measurement and differing availability of data can lead to serious selection bias. Escape route two would redefine democracy. In this approach the institutionalized principle of ‘one person, one vote’ loses its central status. It could be replaced by ‘discursive representation’ (Dryzek and Niemeyer) or ‘right to justification’ (Forst). However, reducing democratic accountability does not remove the tension between deliberative decision-making and democratic autonomy. Landwehr argued both should be avoided and that the most promising approach is a systemic one in which legitimacy claims are not directed at institutions but the system at large. Deliberation can be distributed, decentralized and iterated. From this perspective a systems can qualify as deliberative and democratic even if no single institution or forum within it is both at the same time. Yet, there are risks to this approach too, as it could vindicate elitist decision-making.

Thus, the paper moves the focus of deliberative democracy to the meta-level in considering ways of democratizing deliberation on institutional design. Landwehr’s central thesis states that while non-majoritarian bodies cannot be democratized, the way in which they are set up and designed can and should be. The discussion following the presentation was characterized by questions on the role of the parliament and the use of the deliberative systems approach in the paper.

By Helena Seibicke

Claudia Landwehr's paper was published as ARENA Working Paper 3/2014: Deliberative Democracy and Non-Majoritarian Decision-Making


Claudia Landwehr is Professor of politics and economy at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. She earned her PhD from Hamburg University in 2007, and has been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Program of Ethics and Health at Harvard University. She has written 'Political Conflict and Political Preferences. Communicative Interaction between Facts, Norms and Interests' (2009), co-edited 'Demokratie und Gerechtigkei in Verteilungskonflikten' (2012) and her most recent work 'The Europeanization of Health Care Coverage Decisions: EU-regulation, Policy Learning and Cooperation in Decision-Making' (2013) was published in the Journal of European Integration.

Sign up here for notifications of forthcoming seminars

Published Jan. 15, 2014 2:26 PM - Last modified Aug. 6, 2014 1:29 PM