A Cultural Account of Communication for Deliberative Democracy

Parkinson, J. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation (speaker at event)Talk or presentationAcademic


For a talk-centric theory of democracy, the theory of communication that underlies deliberative democracy has received surprisingly little attention. While much of the literature gestures towards the communication theory of Jürgen Habermas, it often misrepresents it: in other words, it is not as Habermasian as is frequently supposed. Meanwhile Habermas himself has been criticised for focusing on purposive language, and not the variety of functions that language can perform, nor the variety of non-verbal ways in which humans make sense of the world and coordinate their actions. This paper constructs and defends an approach that combines a micro-level, ‘memetic’ understanding of interpersonal communication with a cultural understanding of how meanings are shared and embodied in symbols, practices and institutions. It then shows how that cultural account helps resolve a series of key problems in deliberative democracy, including: the fact that it has no account of the mechanisms of preference transformation; the tendency to inflate the concept of deliberation to include other communication modes; and the tension between transmission and transformation views of deliberative quality.
Period5 Sep 2019
Event titleEuropean Consortium for Political Research General Conference 2019: null
Event typeConference
LocationWroclaw, Poland