Symbols and Reasons in Democratization: Cultural Sociology Meets Deliberative Democracy

Jensen Sass, John Dryzek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We develop an account of societal democratization that synthesizes cultural sociology and deliberative democracy. Cultural sociologists emphasize the symbolic inclusion of marginalized groups into the civil sphere. Deliberative democrats stress growth in the deliberative capacity of society. We argue that democratization entails the co-evolution of culture and reason. The basis of co-evolution is the performative construction of an inclusive demos, which requires a deliberative background but is also a source of the moral emotions that motivate deliberation. Since moral emotions can also sweep people up and make them do reckless things, they must in turn be redeemable in inclusive deliberation. This synthesis sharpens a normative position for the evaluation of episodes of inclusion, extends current accounts of the place of emotion in cultural sociology and deliberative democracy, and provides a frame for comparative analyses of democratization. We illustrate with an examination of the exclusion and inclusion of Indigenous Australians.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalTheory and Society
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2024


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