The Emancipatory Effect of Deliberation: Empirical Lessons from Mini-Publics

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This article investigates the prospects of deliberative democracy through the analysis of small-scale deliberative events, or mini-publics, using empirical methods to understand the process of preference transformation. Evidence from two case studies suggests that deliberation corrects preexisting distortions of public will caused by either active manipulation or passive overemphasis on symbolically potent issues. Deliberation corrected these distortions by reconnecting participants’ expressed preferences to their underlying “will” as well as shaping a shared understanding of the issue.The article concludes by using these insights to suggest ways that mini-public deliberation might be articulated to the broader public sphere so that the benefits might be scaled up. That mini-public deliberation does not so much change individual subjectivity as reconnect it to the expression of will suggests that scaling up the transformative effects should be possible so long as this involves communicating in the form of reasons rather than preferred outcome alone
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-140
Number of pages38
JournalPolitics Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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