By Ian O'Flynn
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Additional info for Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies
In divided societies, such a claim would almost inevitably be interpreted as a covert effort at domination or assimilation. Ultimately, it should be up to people themselves to decide how to reconcile their political and non-political commitments, for this is what it means to treat people with the kind of respect that is due to them as political equals. For many of us, that fit may never be exact, but this may have to be the price that we have to pay to live in a democratic society (but see James 2004: 53–8).
Although this is a difficult challenge, I will now draw on the work John Rawls in order to show how it can be met. My strategy is as follows. I cast Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971) as an example of a normative theory that necessarily implies empirical questions (just as in earlier sections of this chapter Lijphart’s consociational democracy served as an example of an empirical theory that implies normative questions). By contrast, I show that Rawls’s Political Liberalism (1996) can serve as a proposal for how to strike an appropriate balance between normative and empirical considerations in societies marked by diversity and division.
For now, though, it is time to turn to the definition of deliberative democracy. In what follows, I begin by providing an account of what I mean by democracy and how its value might be explained, before proceeding to give a specifically ‘deliberative’ twist to that account. Democratic values The transition from conflict to democracy is fraught with difficulties and dangers. Progress can be glacial and is prone to breakdowns. The basic reason why is perhaps obvious. Since democracy cannot ensure that any particular set of needs, interests or underlying values will ultimately triumph, democratic transitions will necessarily involve a high degree of risk and uncertainty for everyone involved.