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POLITICAL STUDIES: 2006 VOL 54, 486–508

Integrated Deliberation: Reconciling Civil Society’s Dual Role in Deliberative Democracy

Carolyn M. Hendriks

University of Amsterdam

Among the growing literature on deliberative democracy there are two diverging streams of thought, each implying a different role for civil society. Micro deliberative theorists, with their focus on the procedural conditions for structured fora, encourage civil society to engage in collaborative practices, usually with the state. In contrast, macro deliberative democrats, who are interested in the messy and informal deliberation in the public sphere, advocate that civil society should work discursively outside and against the state.This article explores some of the implications of these conflicting roles, taking into account two observations from deliberative practice: first, that all micro deliberative fora are surrounded and impacted by their macro discursive context, and second, that some actors in civil society are more willing and capable of deliberating than others.To conceive of deliberative democracy as an entirely micro or macro enterprise is not only unrealistic, but potentially exclusive. The article advocates for a more viable and inclusive deliberative theory; one that integrates all kinds of deliberation from the micro to the macro.To this end, public deliberation is best conceptualised as an activity occurring in a range of discursive spheres that collectively engage a diversity of civil society actors.

Civil society is one of those amorphous terms that float around with multiple meanings, each carrying different political connotations. It has been described as

the locus of what there is of utopianism

in contemporary political thought’ (Post and Rosenblum, 2002, p. 23).The recent surge of comparative literature on civil society highlights the breadth of inter- pretations that the term can take on across theories of politics (see for example, Chambers and Kymlicka, 2002). Even within a given political theory, consensus on what ‘civil society’ encompasses does not appear any easier to attain.The field of deliberative democracy is as guilty as any of using the term with limited critical exploration of whom it includes, and what its normative role entails. In this article I open up this discussion and reveal that when it comes to civil society delib- erative democrats are ambiguous, and possibly divided.

‘the “chicken soup” of social sciences

Deliberative democracy has become a booming area of political thought. But, like any appealing normative theory, it runs the risk of becoming estranged from the very political practice it seeks to inform.This is particularly so in relation to what deliberative democracy has to say (or does not say) on civil society.Within the growing literature on deliberative democracy there are two diverging streams of thought, which I label as micro and macro. Micro deliberative theorists concen-

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trate on defining the ideal conditions of a deliberative procedure (e.g. Bessette, 1994; Cohen, 1997; Elster, 1997).This stream of theory provides only a limited discussion on who should deliberate and does not refer to civil society per se. In contrast, macro deliberative theorists emphasise informal discursive forms of delib- eration, which take place in the public sphere (Benhabib, 1996; Dryzek, 1990; 2000a; Habermas, 1996a). 1 Their primary focus is on the unstructured and open conversations outside formal decision-making institutions. 2

These two streams of deliberative democratic theory prescribe very different roles for civil society, particularly with respect to how citizens and groups should relate to the state and whether they should take on a communicative or strategic role in deliberative politics.Micro theories of deliberative democracy suggest that civil society actors should engage in deliberative politics to the extent that they are willing and capable of participating in structured deliberative fora. In this sense, civil society is implicitly called to take on communicative forms of action through collaborating with the state. Conversely, macro theories of deliberative democracy emphasise the informal and unstructured nature of public discussion. Under this conception, civil society plays a role in informal political activities both outside and against the state.These activities presumably require both communicative and strategic behaviour.

There is increasing empirical evidence that when these two deliberative worlds come together, tensions arise. For in deliberative practice, fora based on micro deliberative norms operate in a broader macro context. But this is not to say they are always compatible. Empirical research reveals that some active publics and strategic groups resist the norms and intentions of micro deliberative fora because they fear co-option or loss of power (Hendriks, 2002; Sagoff, 1999; Thomas, 2003). Others have found that civil society actors are often forced to make hard choices on whether to work with or against the state and, in doing so, whether to take on the role of the deliberator or the activist (Barnes, 2002;Montpetit et al .,

2004).

These tensions highlight the need for deliberative democrats to take a more critical look at how their theories and institutional designs relate to civil society. In this article, I take on this task, first, by unpacking what the concept of civil society might mean for deliberative democracy and how this definition accommodates different actors such as interest groups, social movements, net- works and everyday citizens. Secondly, I further explore the potential tensions between the roles assigned to civil society by micro and macro versions of deliberative democracy. Next, I critique some theoretical attempts to bridge the macro and micro divide, acknowledging that some groups and actors will be more capable and willing to deliberate, both in the micro and macro sense, than others. I conclude by arguing for an integrated deliberative system – one that accommodates the diversity of civil society by fostering deliberation in a variety of public spaces.

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What is this Thing Called ‘Civil Society’?

Civil society is a highly contested concept. Social theorists and philosophers have debated the virtues and boundaries of civil society at least since its early modern usage in the late seventeenth century in Western Europe. 3 Scottish moralists, for example, conceived of civil society as a source of ethics – a place where norms emerged from the people rather than from external institutions such as the monarch or the church (Seligman, 2002, pp. 14–5). Subsequent philosophers from Hume to Hegel to Marx have critiqued this romantic conception of civil society, each for different reasons. Hume, for instance, challenged the notion of univer- salistic social norms, while Hegel argued that civil society should be embedded in institutions of the state, including corporations. 4

In contemporary debates, there are two broad uses of the term.The first, which stemmed from the rise of anti-communist movements in Eastern Europe, views civil society as a source of state opposition (Seligman, 2002).This position grew out of the experiences in both Eastern Europe and Latin America over the past 30 years where grass-roots groups gained wide public momentum to overthrow repressive regimes (see Havel et al., 1996; Smolar, 1996).The second use of civil society emerged primarily out of North America as a backlash to liberal indi- vidualism. In this context, the concept refers to the communal and associational spaces of social life, which, it is argued, are necessary for a well-functioning democracy (Putnam, 1993; 1995; Walzer, 1995).

The concept of civil society has surfaced in a breadth of literature spanning communitarianism, social movements, social capital, associative democracy, delib- erative democracy and more recently in the work on the ‘democratic deficit’. Its prolific usage has given civil society an ambiguous character. It is often used interchangeably with terms such as ‘the public sphere’ and ‘the community’. Those definitions that do exist prefer to avoid clarifying civil society using known concepts such as social movements and interest groups. This terminological swamp makes navigating the territories of civil society a difficult endeavour, and sourcing an agreed-upon definition near impossible.

It is probably safe to say that civil society broadly refers to the formal and informal associations and networks in society, which exist outside the state. Some defini- tions limit civil society to the domain of voluntary association, encompassing everything from loose apolitical social networks to sporting clubs through to organised and politically motivated interest groups. Others go further and dis- tinguish civil society from not just the state, but from the economy (Cohen and Arato, 1992, p. 20; Dryzek, 2000a, p. 23; Young, 2000, pp. 158–60). Civil society as distinct from the state and the economy ‘include[s] all institutions and asso- ciational forms that require communicative interaction for their reproduction and that rely primarily on processes of social integration for coordinating action within their boundaries’ (Cohen and Arato, 1992, p. 429). But definitions that differentiate civil society from the state and economy are always unclear with

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respect to boundaries.That diverse interpretations of civil society exist across so many different political theories and religious traditions is due to the slippery boundaries between the state, economy and society. The complex interaction between all three domains has meant that much disagreement remains, for example as to what extent civil society should encompass the commercial and private spheres of society.

Civil society is best conceptualised in spatial terms as an ‘arena’ where distinct ‘kinds of activities’ occur across a range of private, political and civic associations and networks (Young, 2000, p. 160). 5 One of civil society’s defining features is its capacity to ‘self-organise’, that is, to ‘develop communicative interactions that support identities, expand participatory possibilities and create networks of soli- darity’ (Young, 2000, p. 163). 6 Under this definition civil society encompasses the private sphere of families as well as associations, social movements and other forms of public communication, such as the media. However, it excludes state-bounded institutions such as political parties, parliament and the bureaucracy, as well as organisations centred wholly on the market and economic production.

We must also acknowledge that civil society is a heterogeneous space. Some arenas are more oriented towards influencing the state or economy than others. Some foster progressive ideas, others more conservative ones, and then there are those that support fundamentalist positions. Civil society is also heterogeneous with respect to resources, power and influence. Social and economic inequalities in civil society provide certain groups with privileged access to information, labour and finance. These resources enable certain groups to organise more effectively, which in turn assists their access to the state (Olson, 1965). From a democratic perspective,this simply means that powerful groups with sophisticated political strategies have more capacity to influence policy than smaller semi- organised community-based groups (Fung, 2003a; Warren, 2001).

In order to make this heterogeneity more explicit in our spatial definition of civil society, it is useful to differentiate ‘arenas’ in terms of their orientation towards the state and the kinds of actors they attract (see Figure 1). 7 The more politicised arenas in civil society, often referred to as public spheres (Dryzek, 2000a, p. 23), are located closest to the state. Public spheres provide spaces where various discourses and ideas in civil society can be ‘voiced and made politically effica- cious’ (Chambers, 2002, p. 96). Actors in these venues, such as interest groups, social movements and individual activists seek to influence public affairs by acting as networks of public opinion, which communicate information and points of view (Habermas, 1996a, p. 360). 8 Different public spheres emerge out of civil society, often in response to failures in the economy and the state. 9 Some are more organised (e.g. interest groups) than others (e.g. social movements, networks); some work locally, others internationally. In addition, civil society is composed of everyday citizens who engage with the state mostly as individuals when they can, and in ways they can (Bang, 2003; O’Toole et al ., 2003).

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Figure 1: Civil Society and Public Spheres in Relation to the State

everyday citizens individual activists social movements & networks interest groups political parties The State
everyday citizens
individual activists
social movements &
networks
interest groups
political parties
The State

civil society

public spheres

– politically orientated arenas of civil society

Civil Society and Democracy

With respect to democracy, civil society is generally hailed as a positive force.Yet, the reasons for why this is so vary significantly across theories of politics. Classical liberals such as Locke and Hume broadly take the position that civil society is good for democracy because it enables autonomous individuals to move freely between voluntary associations, thus providing a counterbalance to the powers of the state (see Lomasky, 2002; Scalet and Schmidtz, 2002). Modern liberals, however, are more sceptical of civil society’s potential for democracy. They caution against the anti-liberal, anti-market and potentially anti-democratic ten- dencies of the more communitarian advocates of civil society. In response, communitarians such as Amitai Etzioni (1995) and Michael Sandel (1996) argue that civil society is positive for democracy because it provides a site where communities, not self-interested individuals or the state, co-determine their own destinies.Along similar lines, neo-Tocquevilleans argue that civil society is the site where citizens are ‘schooled’ in democracy. For example, Robert Putnam (1993; 1995) claims that civic virtues such as trust and reciprocity are fostered by the activities of largely apolitical associations, which cut across social cleavages.

These contrasting positions highlight that different political theories call on particular kinds of actors within civil society to promote democracy – from individuals, to oppositional groups and social movements, to apolitical associa- tions. The roles attributed to these actors do not appear to be consistent or

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compatible (Foley and Edwards, 1996). Theories of deliberative democracy are also ambiguous about civil society’s role in democracy. The following section discusses how this ambiguity stems from two contrasting ideas of what delibera- tion entails and who it should involve.

The Mapping of Deliberative Democracy

The importance of deliberation in collective decision-making can be traced back to Aristotle, but it has received particular attention over the past two decades under the labels of ‘deliberative democracy’ (Bessette, 1994) and ‘discursive democracy’ (Dryzek, 1990).The contemporary revival of deliberation stems from a rejection of decision procedures based on the aggregation of votes or the competition of interests, which often result in irrational and arbitrary outcomes. In contrast, collective decisions under the deliberative model are determined through reflective public reasoning. Although theorists are divided on the finer details of what deliberation exactly entails – a theme I take up below – most agree that it is a particular form of communication centred on reasoned argument. Proponents of deliberative democracy, including myself, value deliberation because it encourages more informed rational decisions, fairer, more publicly oriented outcomes and improved civic skills.

Deliberative democracy, like the term ‘civil society’ is a debated concept. One consequence of the recent interest in deliberative democracy has been that many democratic varieties now claim to ‘sail under the deliberative banner’ (Dryzek, 2000a, p. 2). Broad attempts to map this growing field of political thought have essentially concluded that deliberative democracy comes in many shapes and sizes (Bohman, 1998; Chambers, 2003; Saward, 2001).These mapping exercises typi- cally divide the field of deliberative democracy in terms of the origins of different ‘deliberative turns’ – one in liberalism and the other in critical theory. 10 Ricardo Blaug (2002), for example, suggests that the theory of deliberative democracy be likened to an object with two connected but opposing lobes. One lobe represents the more ‘incumbent’ strand of deliberative democracy which others, such as Dryzek (2000b) refer to as ‘liberal constitutional’ varieties. This interpretation contrasts with the second lobe or strand of deliberative democracy, which takes a more critical and discursive perspective.

This article takes a slightly different approach by recognising that theories of deliberative democracy diverge in different directions when it comes to the scale and formality of ‘deliberation’. Here, the theory seems to be divided into two streams: micro (deliberative) and macro (discursive) accounts of delibera- tive democracy. 11 As outlined in the introduction, micro theories of deliberative democracy concentrate on defining and discussing the nature of a deliberative procedure and its ideal conditions. In contrast, macro accounts are concerned with the messy forms of deliberation that take place in the public sphere. Here the focus is on how informal, open and unstructured deliberation in civil society can shape public opinion and, in turn, political institutions. 12

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Deliberative Democracy and Civil Society

Micro and macro strands of deliberative democracy also differ with respect to how they relate to civil society. Each account places a different emphasis on what deliberation entails, which in turn influences who in civil society participates and how.

Micro Conceptions of Deliberative Democracy

Recall that for micro deliberative democrats deliberation is an activity that takes place in structured fora where free and equal participants come together to decide on an agenda, reason and argue together and settle on an outcome (Bessette, 1994; Cohen, 1997; Elster, 1997).The key emphasis in micro accounts is that partici- pants are relatively impartial, willing to listen to each other and committed to reaching a mutual understanding in view of the collective good (Bickford, 1996, p. 149; Cohen, 1997).Micro deliberative theorists focus on providing ideal models for deliberation in public institutions. For this reason their theories are mostly associated with existing political institutions of Western democracies such as legislatures (Bessette, 1994; Uhr, 1998). A few micro theorists, however, take a more Athenian view of the deliberative forum by extending participation beyond elected representatives. Joshua Cohen (1997, p. 85) for example, defines delibera- tive procedures as ‘arenas in which citizens can propose issues for the political agenda and participate in debate about those issues’. Accordingly, a forum is democratic and deliberative if the participants are free and equal to decide on the agenda, propose solutions to the problems set for discussion and aim to settle on an alternative (Cohen, 1997).Although this literature provides a useful normative framework for deliberation, there is much disagreement on the democratic part of the equation.That is, who should be involved and how? Consequently, these micro accounts pay little attention to civil society, and leave us to infer its role from discussions on legitimacy or the procedural conditions for deliberation.

I turn first to the legitimacy argument.According to Jon Elster (1998, p. 8), most democrats agree that the ‘democratic part’ of deliberative democracy refers to ‘collective decision making with the participation of all who will be affected by the decision or their representatives’. But this seems implausible given the diffi- culties of involving everyone in decisions in modern plural societies. In order to achieve the communicative ideals of micro deliberation, the number of partici- pants in any given deliberative forum is necessarily small – hence, the ‘micro’ label. In this sense micro deliberation is inevitably exclusive because it tends to privilege deliberation over participation. 13 One way around this scale issue would be to accept that representatives can deliberate on behalf of others, but then we need to question how this is substantially different from elitist versions of democracy. Even if we accept that micro theories of deliberative democracy propose ideal conditions for deliberation, the legitimacy argument remains vague on civil society’s normative role within this ideal.

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Another way to unpack civil society’s role in micro deliberation is to examine which actors are likely to engage in a structured process of collective reasoning. For example, in a deliberative forum participants are expected to communicate openly, seek mutual understanding and reflect on the ideas and perspectives of others. Ideally, micro deliberators have adaptive and accommodating preferences in order to consider the arguments of others, and are ready to readjust their own positions in view of what they have heard and what others can accept. 14 Partici- pants need to be autonomous and open-minded, and willing to allow the power of reason to shift their preferences towards the common good (Cohen, 1997, pp. 75–6; Gutmann and Thompson, 1996, p. 174; Miller, 1992, p. 62). Micro theories seem to imply that only those that are willing and capable of upholding these deliberative norms should participate in a deliberative forum. This leads some theorists such as John Rawls (1971) in the direction of the courts. But, with respect to civil society, micro theories implicitly seem to exclude those actors in public life who are more interested in pursuing their own agenda than expanding their perspectives.Taken to its extreme this suggests that many partisans, such as interest groups, social movements and activists are unlikely to make useful micro deliberators (see Young, 2001). 15

This exclusionary aspect of micro deliberation has been the source of much criticism. Difference democrats, for example, worry that structured deliberation can ostracise those unfamiliar with formal debate or poised speech (Sanders, 1997; Young, 1996, pp. 122–5) or oppressed groups who may need to assert their self-interest (Mansbridge, 2003, pp. 179–88). 16 Other democrats such as Mark Warren (1992) are concerned that theories of deliberation based around the idea of preference shifts rely on a conception of ‘self’ which is ‘oversocialised’ and ‘overly discursive’. Such a self, he argues (p. 13),‘would be autonomous yet social, individuated yet defined by nonconflicting interests, rational but embodied in numerous different social relations, expressive of individuality yet public in orientation’.

Macro Conceptions of Deliberative Democracy

An alternate conception of deliberative democracy takes the macro perspective. Democrats of this ilk view deliberation in less structured terms where people engage in open public discourse via associations, social movements, networks and the media (Benhabib, 1996; Dryzek, 1990; 2000a; Habermas, 1996a). 17 Whereas micro deliberation is typically oriented towards decision-making, macro delib- eration is aimed at opinion formation.What macro deliberation produces, accord- ing to Seyla Benhabib (1996, p. 74) is a public conversation ‘of mutually interlocking and overlapping networks and associations of deliberation, contestation and argumentation’ (emphasis in original). For John Dryzek, macro deliberation is about the contes- tation of overlapping discourses. Discourses can be likened to coherent storylines, which build upon facts, values, myths and opinions. They represent ‘a shared means of making sense of the world embedded in language’ (Dryzek, 2000a, p.

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18). Macro or discursive deliberation takes place in the informal and ‘wild’ spaces in society where communication is unconstrained and spontaneous (Habermas, 1996a, p. 307). It encompasses a range of communicative spaces from small face-to-face discussions through to action by social movements and the media. Highly unpredictable, discursive deliberation does not necessarily exclude more strategic forms of action such as protest, boycott and radical activism.

The very fact that macro deliberation is based on less stringent communicative norms renders it a more inclusive version of deliberative democracy. 18 It over- comes the scale problem that faces micro deliberation by locating deliberation in the public sphere. For this reason civil society plays a predominant role in macro accounts of deliberative democracy. Macro theorists call on different kinds of actors in civil society, such as social movements and empowered citizens, to stand up and actively engage in public discourse.Under macro deliberation, civil society is called on to play an unconstrained and even oppositional role against the state by engaging in acts of communication (Dryzek, 2000a; Habermas, 1996b).

On first assessment, macro deliberation might appear more inclusive and thus potentially more legitimate, but it carries with it some deliberative dangers. On the whole, macro democrats remain highly optimistic that broad-scale delibera- tion within the public sphere, with its openness for ‘unrestricted communication’, is rigorous enough to counter illegitimate claims and attempts to distort com- munication. In particular, they rely on ‘indigenous’ actors in the public sphere, such as social movements, to stimulate counter-knowledge and ask critical questions (Dryzek, 2000a, ch. 4; Habermas, 1996a; 1996b). 19 But, when the weak and marginalised fail to muster enough discursive potential, macro deliberation can easily collapse into the very kind of adversarial interest group politics that deliberative democrats reject (e.g. Bessette, 1994, pp. 56–63; Rawls, 1971, pp. 360–1). 20

Some macro theorists acknowledge the potential communicative distortions within the public sphere. For example, in Between Facts and Norms, Jürgen

Habermas acknowledges that ‘On account of its anarchic structure, the general

public sphere is

unequally distributed social power, structural violence, and systematically dis- torted communication than are institutionalized public spheres of parliamentary bodies’ (Habermas, 1996a, pp. 307–8). 21 In order to correct these distortions, Habermas firstly proposes a set of legal and constitutional safeguards (Chambers, 2002). Secondly, he calls on specific liberating actors in civil society to ensure that communication is not distorted.These actors can be distinguished by their ‘dual orientation’ of political engagement. On the one hand they seek to influence the political system but on the other hand they also seek to empower and enlarge civil society’s capacity to take action (Habermas, 1996a, p. 370).The kinds of groups who might take on this anti-distortion role are certain social movements who pursue issues both at the grass-roots and at the policy level.

more vulnerable to the repressive and exclusionary effects of

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Critics of Habermas’s proposal argue that he does not go far enough in acknowl- edging the inequalities which exist within the public sphere and the potential communication distortions that result from this (Eley, 1992; Fraser, 1992). For example, Nancy Fraser (1992) argues that rather than conceiving of one large public sphere, we should acknowledge that modern late-capitalist societies contain multiple diverse publics which are differentially equipped to partake in politics.Social and economic inequalities often mean that it is the more privileged actors in the public sphere who dominate discussion and debate.

Habermas’s account is also problematic because it does not seem to acknowl- edge the problems of ‘bad civil society’ (Chambers, 2002, pp. 100–5), and thus grossly overestimates the capacity of the public sphere to self-rectify. A more critical look at social movements might reveal that they do not always provide the potential for democracy that Habermas claims. For example, some groups can be internally anti-democratic and may not respect progressive liberal and democratic ideals (Levi, 1996; Young, 2000, p. 180). Habermas’s account is also vague on how exactly specific actors in civil society, such as social movements, prevent communication distortions. In practice, social movements, like other interest groups, seek to distort or reframe an issue in order to ‘sell’ their message to the public. How is the communication from social movements any less susceptible to distortion then the agendas pushed by powerful interest groups and commercial organisations?

Contrasting Roles and their Democratic Implications

The article thus far has argued that deliberative democracy presents two different and potentially conflicting roles for civil society. In its extreme interpretation, micro theorists call on elected representatives and those actors in civil society who are willing and capable of deliberating (i.e. those with open preferences) to engage in rational deliberation in a structured forum. In contrast, macro theorists advocate that civil society’s role is embedded in a form of democratic emanci- pation. Civil society is the venue where ideas and discourses are formed, shaped and contested. Rather than engage in formal deliberation, civil society’s role is to mobilise discourses outside the state in unconstrained and perhaps even in strategic ways.

At this point it is important to acknowledge that these roles will appeal variously to different actors in civil society. Theoretically, macro deliberation is likely to attract groups and activists interested in advocating a particular outcome. As discussed earlier, the market-like functioning of ideas in the public domain makes macro deliberation more accessible to the louder, well-organised and well- resourced actors in civil society (Christiano, 1996). In contrast, micro deliberation is likely to find more appeal among open and non-partisan actors in civil society (Warren, 2001; Young, 2001). Many group representatives, for example, are likely to make poor ‘micro deliberators’ because they have been delegated by their

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organisation and members to pursue a specific policy position. Similarly, some public intellectuals and experts might reject a micro deliberative forum because their reputations or world views restrict their capacity to reconsider their own preferences. Micro deliberation might also be resisted by actors in civil society, especially partisans, because they fear co-option and further marginalisation (Kohn, 2000; Sanders, 1997; Young, 1996) or because they prefer to pursue their agendas using power and interest politics (Shapiro, 1999; Simon, 1999). Recent empirical research supports these speculations, finding that partisans and activists are often highly sceptical of structured deliberative fora, whether organised within or outside the state (Hendriks, 2002; 2004; Levine and Nierras, 2005).

Since different actors in civil society will tend to prefer one form of deliberation to another, there are some serious democratic implications in conceiving of deliberative democracy entirely as either a micro or macro enterprise. If we were to place all our deliberative eggs in the micro basket,then this would be to exclude those actors with rigid or group-bound preferences. Alternatively, if we were to place all our deliberative eggs into the macro basket, this would privilege those actors in civil society with the resources to articulate, organise and mobilise their ideas in the public sphere.

Given the limitations of a purely micro deliberative system (potentially elitist and exclusive) or a purely macro deliberative system (potentially populist and undemocratic), what would a more integrated system look like? I explore this question by first critiquing three different proposals for integrating micro and macro deliberation, after which I introduce an alternative of my own.

Attempts to Resolve the Deliberative Divide

Perhaps the most elaborate attempt to incorporate micro and macro forms of deliberation is Habermas’s (1996a) ‘two-track’ model of democracy. Deliberation under this model proceeds on two levels: opinions are formed in the public sphere and then transmitted via ‘currents of public communication’ to the state where more formal deliberation takes place in courts and parliaments for the purposes of ‘will formation’ (lawmaking) (Habermas, 1996a, pp. 307–8). 22 Elections and the media are the main transmission mechanisms between the macro and the micro, but it is unclear what makes this transfer especially deliberative. For all its elaboration, Habermas’s model is also particularly vague on the role of specific kinds of civil society actors, such as interest groups and activists, in this transfer process. 23 He leaves us wondering: how do the resource and deliberative inequali- ties in the public sphere affect the way in which opinion is transferred to the state?

Associative democrats propose another means to connect micro fora with the macro deliberative world.They prefer to assign specific actors in civil society (in particular, associations) a greater role in formal deliberation with the state (Cohen and Rogers, 1995a; Hirst, 1994). In essence this is a liberal and democratic version

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of institutional pluralism, where competing associations provide different services for their members (Bader, 2001, p. 5). Some associative democrats envisage traditional state-run services being conducted by a range of associations that emerge freely from within civil society (Hirst, 1994). In contrast, Cohen and Rogers’ (1995a) associative democracy involves uncorrupted state intervention to centralise and stimulate the right kinds of association.Their version reflects a form of ‘hyper-corporatism’ in which certain select groups in civil society are given access to the state.

The associative democrats’ strategy has both democratic and deliberative prob- lems. 24 First, it assumes that society is neatly composed into associative groupings, which are capable of representing the diversity of all citizens. Second, it assumes that such groups are capable of deliberating. Yet, as pointed out above, micro theories of deliberative democracy suggest that participants with free, open preferences are more capable of deliberating than representatives of groups who hold rigid preferences.Third, as pointed out by Dryzek (2000a, p. 92), there are very few successful examples reflecting Cohen and Rogers’ theoretical form of state-sponsored associationalism. Finally, the associative strategy is limited to the extent that there will always be a tension between engaging civil society in state institutions and preserving civil society’s role outside the state (Montpetit et al ., 2004; Young, 2000).

The practice of corporatism also reminds us that Cohen and Rogers’ (1995a) associative democracy could essentially lead to the inclusion of a select elite or privileged groups in civil society at the exclusion of others. In the end, such exclusion could paradoxically stimulate macro deliberation, as demonstrated by the rise of the green movement in Germany in the 1970s and 80s after years of exclusion from corporatist arrangements between the state, labour and business (Dryzek et al., 2003). 25 But, in the end the associative democracy scenario is likely to suffer from some of the problems that face Habermas’s two-track model. For example, formal deliberative structures (which under the associative vision would include both the state and associations) would operate more or less in a separate realm from active public spheres. Again, there is the question of how these two forms of deliberation should productively interrelate.

Rather than attempting to connect two distinct forms of deliberation, Jane Mansbridge (1999) suggests that we consider a deliberative system composed of multiple venues for deliberation. At one end of the deliberative system is the informal ‘everyday talk’ among citizens and social movements, and at the other end is the formal decision-making that takes place in public assemblies and parliament.This is a more promising and realistic account of the heterogeneous and eclectic world of deliberation observed in practice (Fung and Wright, 2003; Gastil and Levine, 2005). It recognises that public deliberation is not an activity restricted to either micro or macro venues, but something that takes place in all sorts of institutions, arenas and spaces in social life.

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Although the deliberative system seems to capture well how public deliberation proceeds in practice, it suffers, I believe, from two limitations. First, the system as proposed by Mansbridge (1999) seems to neglect that not all forms of delibera- tion along the deliberative spectrum are likely to be mutually supportive. In her proposal, Mansbridge (1999, p. 213) describes how ‘different parts of the delib- erative system mutually influence one another in ways that are not easy to parse out’. In particular, she cites how the media and social movements shape and are shaped by political debate, and how ‘the intentionally political talk of activists influences and is influenced by the everyday talk of nonactivists’. Mansbridge’s proposal implicitly assumes that the more informal public conversations will work in unison with, and mutually reinforce,the micro deliberation in structured fora. 26 In making this assumption, however, she overlooks a major challenge facing deliberative practice: that structured deliberative fora do not always interface well with their broader discursive context (see Hendriks, 2002; 2004; Sagoff, 1999; Thomas, 2003).

In reality all micro fora operate in a macro deliberative setting. Deliberative practitioners work tirelessly to ensure that fora interface smoothly and produc-

tively with their broader discursive context. In an ideal scenario, a dialectic is established between the macro and the micro: public discourse informs the deliberations within the forum, and the forum informs public discussion. But numerous studies report how this ideal is not easy to obtain in practice. In some cases, structured deliberative fora fuel antagonism and polarisation, rather than fostering broader community debate (Hendriks, 2002; Sagoff, 1999; van den Daele et al ., 1997).The reverse also occurs where a deliberative process has little impact on public discourse because it is overshadowed or undermined by dominant voices. This was exactly what happened to a citizens’ conference

( bürgerkonferenz) held in Germany in 2001 on genetic diagnostics (Schicktanz

and Naumann, 2003). The conference took place at a time when there was an abundance of political and public discussion around the controversial issue of applying gene technology for medical and insurance purposes. Relevant policy actors congregated and debated the benefits and costs of genetic diagnostics in various arenas, for example advisory committees, conferences and public hear- ings. Alongside these formal – often expert-dominated – fora, there were also a series of informal discursive spaces such as church seminars and the media, where different groups could inject their views into the debate (Hendriks, 2004, ch. 7). In many respects the citizens’ conference operated against the backdrop of a well-functioning public sphere, with all its messy and active macro deliberation. Yet, against this almost hyperactive discursive setting, the citizens’ conference struggled to gain any attention in the political and public domain. In addition, the conference was not well placed to work with, or have an impact on, prominent expert advisory committees. This case highlights that when there are so many opportunities for public discourse it is difficult for a one-off deliberative forum to influence a policy debate either directly, by pro- viding substantive policy input, or indirectly, by stimulating public discussion. It

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reveals that unless a micro forum is closely connected to its macro discursive setting, then it risks drowning in a sea of other public conversations.

It is possible that one-off incidents such as these may not concern Mansbridge (1999, p. 224), since she argues that ‘the criterion for good deliberation should be not that every interaction in the system exhibit mutual respect, consistency, acknowledgement, openmindedness and moral economy, but that the larger system reflect those goals’. But it is plausible for an entire deliberative system to lose sight of these goals, for instance when public discourse and everyday talk consistently undermine efforts to create formal deliberative arenas, or vice versa.

Another limitation of the deliberative system as envisaged by Mansbridge relates to the spectrum metaphor. There is a suggestion that public deliberation is something that occurs in discrete and unconnected sites of formal and informal deliberation.This is certainly more implicit than explicit, as demonstrated by the following quote (Mansbridge, 1999, p. 212, emphasis added):‘Often everyday talk produces collective results the way a market produces collective results, through the combined and interactive effects of relatively isolated individual actions’. But, as argued previously, deliberative practice reminds us that different kinds of delib- eration are inextricably linked (see also Hendriks, 2005; Montpetit et al., 2004). As the citizens’ conference discussed above demonstrated, the macro discursive context can be very influential on the workings of a micro deliberative forum. The political significance of a micro forum and the way it is received by policy actors are both shaped by where it is situated in the broader discursive scheme of things.

Promoting an Integrated System of Public Deliberation

The limitations of the models critiqued above suggest that a more integrated deliberative system would (1) celebrate the multiplicity of deliberative venues and (2) foster connections between these venues.To this end, it is useful, I believe, to conceptualise public deliberation along similar lines to the spatial definition of civil society, introduced above. Like civil society, a deliberative system encom- passes a series of arenas where particular kinds of activities take place; in this case, communicative practices that foster critical, public reflection. In contrast to Habermas’s two-track model, the integrated deliberative system I put forward here recognises that deliberation occurs in a variety of public venues, which I label as ‘discursive spheres’. 27 A discursive sphere is a site where public discourse occurs through the exposition and discussion of different viewpoints.They include, for example, parliaments, committee meetings, party rooms, stakeholder round tables, expert committees, community fora, public seminars, church events and so on.

A ‘healthy’ deliberative system contains a multitude of discursive spheres; some formal, some informal and some fostering mixed modes of deliberation. 28 Most spheres have a predominant form of communication, for example scientific

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Figure 2: The Integrated Deliberative System

Macro discursive spheres Informal

Deliberative System Macro discursive spheres Informal Micro discursive spheres Formal e.g. expert committees,

Micro discursive spheres Formal

e.g. expert committees, conferences, commissions of inquiry

Typical actors = parliamentarians, government officials, experts, judges, arbitrators

e.g. mobilisation of discourses, activism, protests, boycotts

Typical actors = social movements, networks, NGOs, activists, interest groups, corporations, the media, opinion leaders

Mixed discursive spheres Informal and formal

e.g. deliberative designs, facilitated town meetings, public seminars

Typical actors = mix of individual citizens, interest groups representatives, activists, experts, the media, government officials, parliamentarians

inquiry, contestation, negotiation, consensus or deliberation. Some spheres are far more structured than others, some more public and inclusive, some are initiated by the state and others emerge from civil society. Although most actors locate themselves in one primary discursive sphere, they are by no means mutually exclusive. Some actors prefer to work in several spheres in order to utilise different forms of communication and engage with different kinds of actors. In contrast, an ‘ailing’ deliberative system would foster conditions that undermine deliberation, for example, by promoting enclaves of like-minded actors who become more extreme in their opinions and less tolerant over time (Sunstein, 2000).

Conceptualising the deliberative system as a series of discursive spheres, as I have done in Figure 2, helps to depict how micro and mixed deliberative arenas are embedded in a broader, informal (macro), discursive context. The dashed lines indicate the porosity of the spheres with respect to alternative or marginalised interests.As shown in Figure 2,macro and mixed discursive spheres are more open (porous) than the micro (formal) spheres.

The integrated deliberative system proposed here differs from Mansbridge’s (1999) continuum in that it considers agency, diversity and interconnectivity.The discursive sphere concept provokes us to think about who participates in different delibera- tive spaces. As argued above, different actors in civil society such as activists, interest groups and individual citizens all vary in their willingness and capacity to

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engage in different kinds of discursive spheres. For example, activists and interest groups are more likely to engage in more informal discursive spheres, as there are fewer rules and constraints (Young, 2001). Many citizens, however, might be less likely to participate fully in these looser forms of deliberation for a range of structural, power and resourcing impediments. In the more formal spheres, for example, experts and parliamentarians will engage in specialised and structured fora.

Given the varying dispositions and willingness of actors to deliberate in macro or micro ways, it is essential that the entire system fosters a diversity of deliberative spaces. Crucial here are ‘mixed’ discursive spheres that combine formal and informal modes of deliberation. Mixed spheres also serve to connect the micro and macro deliberative worlds. They encourage actors who might normally inhabit macro spaces (e.g. activists, interest groups, corporations) and micro venues (e.g. parliamentarians, experts, academics, government officials) to come into contact with actors who are typically underrepresented in both (e.g. individual citizens). More fundamentally, ‘mixed’ venues encourage the cross- fertilisation of ideas across different kinds of actors, connecting broader public discourse to the conversations and decisions of the political elite.

Mixed discursive spheres have not attracted much attention in political theory, but they are abundant in deliberative practice (see Button and Mattson, 2000; Fung, 2003b; Fung and Wright, 2003; Ryfe, 2002). Exemplary in this respect are deliberative designs, such as citizens’ juries and planning cells that create spaces where deliberating lay citizens can hear from and question a range of civil society groups more accustomed to macro deliberation (see Crosby, 1995; Dienel, 1999; Hendriks, 2005). Mixed discursive spheres also include the kind of open public fora and town hall meetings that bring together not only experts, bureaucrats and interest groups but also individual citizens interested in the issue. Numerous deliberative success stories of this sort are now emerging, for example the large-scale twenty-first-century Town Meetings, which have been held across the United States and in one state in Australia under the guidance of AmericaSpeaks (see Carson and Hartz-Karp, 2005; Lukensmeyer et al ., 2005).

What is unique about these mixed discursive spheres is that they capture the benefits of micro and macro deliberation without their respective elitist and populist downfalls. On one level they create micro deliberative spaces where everyday citizens can interact as equals, learn about an issue, question underlying assumptions and premises and most importantly work together towards a collec- tive set of recommendations for decision-makers. But, on another level these mixed deliberative designs also welcome contributions from actors more accus- tomed to macro deliberation, for example activists, NGOs, lobby groups as well as experts and government officials. All these actors are invited to come and share their perspectives and experiences with the citizens’ panel.

With such an avid focus on citizen involvement, these deliberative designs have been labelled by some critics not as ‘mixed’ venues, but as mock spaces that

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exclude those who have ‘real’ knowledge, experience or a ‘stake’ in the issue (see Harrison and Mort, 1998; Parkinson, 2004). But claims of exclusivity always depend on where one sees the boundaries. Beyond the panel of citizens is a broader boundary that wraps around the entire deliberative procedure – one that is much more accessible to macro civil society actors than sceptics acknowledge. One could even go so far as to argue that these ‘mixed’ deliberative designs are especially inclusive and diverse because they embody elements of Dryzek’s discursive legitimacy. This is the idea that a deliberative procedure is legitimate ‘when a collective decision is consistent with the constellation of discourses present in the public sphere, in the degree to which this constellation is subject to the reflective control of competent actors’ (Dryzek, 2001, p. 660). In the deliberative designs cited above, various discourses associated with the issue under deliberation are brought to the attention of the citizens via the presenters.While it is true that not all discourses have a voice or agency, a broad range of presentations from interest groups and experts can expose deliberators to the issue’s diverse discursive landscape. In this way, these procedures are more likely to reflect the constellation of discourses surrounding a problem than the kinds of deliberative enclaves found in state institutions and in the public sphere.

Conclusion

In this article, I have argued that deliberative theorists provide contrasting accounts of civil society.The implicit role of civil society in deliberative democ- racy varies depending on whether the theory is focusing on the conditions for micro deliberative fora or on the informal macro discourse in the public sphere. On the one hand micro theorists advocate for civil society or its representatives to engage in rational deliberation in structured fora. The emphasis is on engaging participants from civil society who have relatively unformed and flexible prefer- ences in a formal deliberative forum. In contrast, macro theories aspire to civil society playing a role in emancipating democracy through unconstrained com- munication. Here, civil society is seen as the venue where public opinion is formed, shaped and contested.

But to conceive of deliberative democracy as an entirely micro or macro enter- prise is not only unrealistic, but potentially exclusive. For, in practice all micro deliberative fora are surrounded and impacted by their macro discursive context. Moreover, civil society is heterogeneous and differentiated, especially in relation to deliberation. Some actors will be more willing and capable of deliberating (either formally or discursively) than others. Furthermore, some groups and citizens might choose to engage with the state in micro deliberative fora, while others might decide to work against the state via macro deliberative action.

These different orientations of civil society expose a number of questions that continue to haunt the institutionalisation of deliberative democracy. For example, how can structured deliberative arenas work together with some of the more

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unconstrained, informal modes of deliberation operating in civil society? In particular, how do structured deliberative fora deal with active public spheres which may resort to power and strategic action? There have been some attempts by various theorists to address these questions by bringing the micro and macro worlds of deliberation together. However, I have argued that these efforts under- estimate variations within civil society regarding who participates in deliberative democracy both formally and informally. Further, theorists give little recognition to civil society’s heterogeneity, particularly with respect to the inequalities in deliberative capacity, power and access to resources. Drawing on Mansbridge’s (1999) deliberative system, I suggest that a more integrated system of public deliberation is best conceptualised as an activity occurring in overlapping discur- sive spheres – some structured, some loose, some mixed – each attracting different actors from civil society. Mixed discursive spheres are a crucial component of this proposal because they encourage diverse actors to come together and cross- fertilise macro and micro public conversations.

Understandingwho participatesin differentforms of public deliberation andinwhat capacity will remain an ongoing challenge in a world where ‘communities of fate’ do not neatly correspondto existing polities.Yet,one sure wayto improvethe quality and quantity of deliberationin contemporary politicsisto promote venuesthat bring together a diversity of voices from across civil society.

( Accepted: 5 September 2005)

About the Author

Carolyn M. Hendriks , Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam, O.Z.Achterburgwal 237, 1012 DL Amsterdam,The Netherlands; email: c.m.hendriks@uva.nl

Notes

I would like to thank John Dryzek, Gerry Mackie, John Parkinson,Tjitske Akkerman and Robert van derVeen for their comments on earlier versions of this article. I am also grateful to three anonymous reviewers for their feedback and suggestions.

1 In this article I am referring to Habermas’s (1996a) latter work on deliberation as laid out in Between Facts and Norms .

2 These represent ideal-types only and there are many theorists who fall in between micro and macro streams, such as Bohman (1996), Cohen and Rogers (1995a), Gutmann and Thompson (1996) and Mansbridge (1999), some of whom I discuss later in this article.

3 According to Cohen and Arato (1992, p. 84) the concept of civil society first appeared in Aristotle as politike koinonia (political society/community).

4 It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the positions of these and other prominent philosophers with respect to civil society. For a useful discussion, see Cohen and Arato (1992) and Seligman (2002).

5 This spatial conceptualisation of civil society also draws on Deakin (2001, p. 7) and Walzer (1995, p. 7).

6 Young (2000) extends this definition further by limiting civil society to those sectors which focus on influencing and changing policies of governments, organisations and corporations. I find this definition somewhat limiting because it excludes citizens and groups engaged in activities which are not state focused, for example the activities of a religious or theatre group.

7 There are of course numerous groups in civil society who seek to influence ‘para-governmental activity’. For example some groups focus on the family, the economy or the international community as a source of change

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(Dryzek, 2000a, p. 102). However, for the purposes of this article, I am concentrating on those groups who seek to influence the state.

8 In Between Facts and Norms , Habermas (1996a, p. 307, p. 314) typically refers to the public sphere in the singular (’the general public sphere’). Young (2000, p. 171) finds this conception of one public sphere useful because it describes a ‘single continuous process or “space” ’ where ‘a diverse, complex, mass society can address social problems through public action’. (For a counter-argument see Fraser [1992].)

9 This notion of spheres forming in response to ‘failures in the state and economy’ is adapted from Jänicke’s (1996) functional definition of civil society. His definition of civil society corresponds with what I am calling here the public sphere. In contrast, my definition of civil society takes on a broader interpretation in that it also includes groups that form around non-economic and state interests. Thus, it encapsulates many groups in society such as religious and recreational groups whose identity is not bound by a response to state or economic failures.

10 The expression ‘deliberative turn’ is borrowed from Dryzek (2000a, p. 1).

11 This distinction between macro and micro theories of deliberative democracy corresponds closely to the ‘circum- scribed’ and ‘uncircumscribed’ variants of Saward (2001, pp. 365–7) and the ‘rule governed process’ and ‘civil society’ approach of Rättilä (2000, pp. 40–1).

12 As acknowledged in note 2, these are ideal-types only.

13 This may not be the case in all micro deliberative fora. For example, there are some exciting developments in deliberative practice where interactive technology is opening up opportunities for more people to engage in micro deliberative fora (see Gastil and Levine, 2005).

14 Gutmann and Thompson (1996, p. 356) refer to this as the ‘capacity to change’.

15 Young (2001) raises this issue in relation to activists and their capacity to deliberate. For a counter-argument on this point with respect to interest groups, see Mansbridge (1992; 1995).

16 Dryzek (2000a, p. 57) defines difference democrats as political theorists ‘who stress the need for democratic politics to concern itself first and foremost with the recognition of the legitimacy and validity of the particular perspectives of historically-oppressed segments of the population’.

17 Young’s (1996) communicative democracy is also consistent with macro accounts of deliberative democracy.

18 In this respect, macro deliberation shares elements with the ideals of participatory democracy (see Hauptmann,

2001).

19 Habermas (1996a, p. 375) labels entities emerging from the public sphere as ‘indigenous’.

20 Kohn (2000, pp. 423–4) makes a similar point.

21 Habermas (1996a, p. 375) also distinguishes between ‘indigenous’ actors in civil society versus those who simply make use of the public sphere.These ‘users’ have organisational power, resources and ‘merely enter the public sphere from, and utilize it for, a specific organization or functional system’.

22 Other macro theorists, such as Dryzek (2000a, p. 51), tend to emphasise transmission through the contestation of discourses.

23 By and large Habermas (1996a, p. 364, pp. 375–9) is not optimistic about the role of interest groups in his two-track model, describing them as strategic actors who are merely interested in using the public sphere for their own ends.

24 For a discussion on the benefits and problems with this version of associative democracy, see the edited volume of Cohen and Roger (1995b).

25 Dryzek et al. ’s (2003) empirical work demonstrates how the green movement in Germany in the 1970s and 80s emerged in response to exclusive corporatist arrangements between the state, labour and business.

26 Mansbridge (1999) acknowledges that certain components of the system may not necessarily reflect the ideal deliberative procedure or that they might exclude certain actors in civil society. However, the key, she argues, is that the total system reflects deliberative conditions (p. 211).

27 Discursive spheres refer to a specific kind of public domain.They are, however, different from the ‘public arenas’that Hilgartner and Bosk (1988, p. 55) have in mind when they talk of institutions where ‘social problem definitions evolve’. Discursive spheres are concerned with where public conversations on a particular issue take place, rather than where issues are defined and framed.

28 There are a handful of theorists who advocate that public deliberation should occur in a variety of venues: for example Warren (1995, p. 193) talks of multiple ‘public spheres’; Bohman (1996, pp. 59–65) refers to ‘dialogical mechanisms’; and Mansbridge (1996, p. 57) celebrates ‘different arenas for deliberation’.

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