Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2014

Deliberative Democracy: Theory and Practice

Lecturer: Professor Simone Chambers,
Department of Political Science,
University of Toronto, Canada

Main disciplines: Political Science, Political Theory

Dates: 21 - 25 July 2014
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 25 participants

This course offers both a broad overview of deliberative democracy theory as well as empirical case study analysis of concrete deliberative initiatives and experiments. The course begins with classic statements of the ideals of deliberative democracy and investigates what constitutes the “deliberative turn” in democratic theory. Here we compare a deliberative model of democracy to alternative models. From there we investigate the two alternative paths that deliberative democracy theory and practice have taken. One path focuses on small-scale deliberative initiatives such as mini-publics citizen’s assemblies, and deliberative pools. The other path leads to more systemic approaches to deliberation and looks at deliberative democracy at a macro level.

The course has two main objectives. The first is to familiarize students with the field of deliberative democracy. This field is now very large and requires a good road map to navigate. The second objective is to help students think through the way deliberative democracy literature and scholarship can speak to their own research agendas and what future research questions offer promising projects.

Students who wish to receive a certificate and earn credit for a PhD program are expected to write an essay of about 6,000 words within 8 weeks after the course. Fulfilling this requirement gives you 10 ECTS points. Topics for the paper should be chosen in consultation with the instructor.

Prepatory reading
These readings are highly recommended as preparation for the course:

  • Simone Chambers, “Deliberative Democracy Theory,” Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 6 (2003): pp. 307- 326 [on line]
  • Dennis Thompson, “Deliberative Democratic Theory and Empirical Political Science,” Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 11 (2008): pp. 498-516. [on line]
  • Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, Why Deliberative Democracy?, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004)



Lecture 1: Models of democracy
We begin the first day with a few classic statements of deliberative democracy. What is new about deliberative democracy? How does it differ from other models of democracy?


  • Jürgen Habermas, “Three Normative Models of Democracy,” in Inclusion of the Other (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001): pp. 239-252. [course compendium]
  • Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, Why Deliberative Democracy? (Princeton University Press, 2004): pp. 1-21, 40-56. [course compendium]

Lecture 2: Deliberation and democratic legitimacy
In the second introductory session we take a deeper look at the claim that deliberative democracy contains the only plausible basis of democratic legitimacy.


  • Bernard Manin, “On legitimacy and political deliberation,” Political Theory (1987) 15: pp. 338-368. [online]
  • Joshua Cohen, “Deliberation and democratic legitimacy” in Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics, eds., James Bohman and William Rheg (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997): pp. 67-91

Lecture 3: Micro models: mini publics
The first wave of important empirical research in deliberative democracy focussed on small scale face-to-face deliberate encounters between ordinary citizens. In this lecture we take a look at the design of these initiatives and the way they enhance democracy. We will introduce our first case study: Citizen’s Assemblies.


  • John Ferejohn, “Conclusion: the Citizens’ Assembly model,” in Designing Deliberative Democracy,” eds. Mark Warren and Hilary Pearse (Cambridge University Press, 2008): pp. 192-213. [course compendium]
  • J. Dryzek and R Goodin, “Deliberative Impacts: The macro-political uptake of mini-publics,” Politics and Society, vol. 34 (2006): pp. 219-244. [on line]

Lecture 4: Micro models: deliberative polls
One of the most well known examples of deliberative democracy is the very successful policy tool of deliberative polling. We will study the theory and design of these instruments as well as a case study from China.


  • James Fishkin, “Deliberative Polling: Executive Summary.” The Centre for Deliberative Democracy, Stanford University http://cdd.stanford.edu/polls/docs/summary/ [on line]
  • James Fishkin, When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011): pp. 106-134.[course compendium]

Lecture 5: Macro models: Habermas’ two-track democracy
Many advocates of deliberative democracy are unhappy with the focus on small scale face-to-face deliberative initiatives.They believe that deliberation offers a macro model of democratic practice. We begin our investigation of macro approaches to deliberative democracy with the classic theory put forward by Jürgen Habermas.


  • Jürgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997): pp. 295-328 [course compendium]
  • Jürgen Habermas, “Political communication in the media society: Does democracy still enjoy an epistemic dimension. The impact of normative theory on empirical research,” Communication Theory, 15 (2006: pp. 411-426. [on line]

Lecture 6: Macro models: deliberative systems
The second example of macro approaches to deliberative democracy is the systematic turn in democratic theory. Here we look at a recent articulation and defence of systemic theory of deliberative democracy.


  • Jane Mansbridge et. al., “A systemic approach to deliberative democracy,” in Deliberative Systems eds. John Parkinson and Jane Mansbridge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012): 1-26. [course compendium]
  • John Dryzek, Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2010):3-17. [course compendium].

Lecture 7: Deliberation versus bargaining and negotiation
A common contrast made in the deliberation literature is between bargaining and negotiation on the one hand and deliberation on the other. This sharp distinction is being challenged in recent literature and we will look at the grounds for that challenge.


  • Jane Mansbridge and Mark Warren, “Deliberative negotiation,” in Negotiating Agreement in Politics, American Political Science Association Task Force Report (forthcoming) [course compendium]

Lecture 8: Deliberation and participation
Is deliberation a form of political participation or is it in tension with participation because activist (arguable to most participatory of citizens) are often not very open to hearing what others have to say. We look at this controversy through reading two opposing points of view based on empirical public opinion research.


  • Diana Mutz, Hearing the Other Side: deliberative versus participatory democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006): pp. 1-17, 125-132, 145-151. [course compendium]
  • Lawrence Jacobs, Fay Lomax Cook, Michael X. delli Carpini, Talking Together: Public deliberation and political participation in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009): pp. 31-42, 64-82. [course compendium]

Lecture 9: Deliberation and rhetoric
Deliberation is often described as encouraging calm consensus seeking interventions in the public sphere.  Passion and rhetoric are often seen as anathema to deliberation. But is this really true?


  • Bryan Garsten, “The rhetoric revival in political theory,” Annual Review of Political Science, 14 (2011): pp. 159-180. [on line]
  • Simone Chambers, “Rhetoric and the public sphere: Has deliberative democracy abandoned mass democracy?” Political Theory, 34 (2009): 417-438. [on line]

Lecture 10: Deliberation and the rational public
A fundamental issue that has plagued deliberative democracy theory (indeed all democratic theory) is the question of whether citizens are capable of exercising the rational competencies that appear to be required to be good deliberators (or even just good citizens). We look to some very recent research that argues that citizens do in fact have the requisite competencies.


  • Hélène Landemore, Democratic Reason: Politics, collective intelligence, and the rule of the many (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013): pp. 1-23, 89-117. [course compendium]


The lecturer
Simone Chambers, is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. She is writing a book Public Reason and Deliberation, which investigates the role of citizen deliberation in contemporary democratic theory. Her general areas of scholarship include political philosophy, ethics, democratic theory and religion in the public sphere. She has published articles on a wide range of subjects including deliberative democracy, rhetoric, publicity and transparency, the work of Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls and religion in the public sphere and civility. She is the author of Reasonable Democracy: Jürgen Habermas and the Politics of Discourse (1996) and the co-editor of Deliberation, Democracy, and the Media (2000) and Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society (2001) as well as numerous journal articles. She has acted as consultant to the Ontario Citizens Assembly. See more: http://politics.utoronto.ca/faculty/profile/?id=23

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Tags: Political Science, Deliberation, Political theory, PhD, Summer School, Democracy, Philosophy, Rethoric, Ethics
Published Nov. 19, 2013 11:20 AM - Last modified Sep. 12, 2017 2:15 PM