Democracy and prostitution: deliberating the legalization of brothels in the Netherlands

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43 Citations (Scopus)


This article discusses democratic deliberation as a core element of public administration in today's decentered world of governance. The juxtaposition of hierarchy and deliberation in policy networks is illustrated with the case of the legalization of brothels in the Netherlands. The case shows that despite distrust and conflict, the actors managed, through deliberative elements in negotiations, to attain the transformation of the prostitution sector into a regular business sector. However, the use of a deliberative implementation strategy did not preclude the emergence of negative, unintended consequences. The success or failure of the deliberative process is sensitive to its design, particularly the issue of who is included and excluded. A deliberative, collaborative approach to policy implementation has the potential to optimize social and cognitive capital. This is seen as a precondition for the constant, painful redesign of policies in the face of conflict and contingency that characterize successful policy implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-235
Number of pages38
JournalAdministration and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


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