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Ideals of Inclusion in Deliberation

The 23-page article, Ideals of Inclusion in Deliberation, was written by Christopher Karpowitz and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, Karpowitz and Raphael, build off of previous research they performed regarding inclusivity within democratic deliberation.

They propose four ideals of inclusion summarized in the abstract, “These principles of inclusion depend not only on the goals of a deliberation, but also on its level of empowerment in the political system, and its openness to all who want to participate. Holistic and open deliberations can most legitimately incorporate and decide for the people as a whole if they are open to all who want to participate and affirmatively recruit perspectives that would be underrepresented otherwise. Chicago Community Policing beat meetings offer an example. Holistic and restricted forums (such as the latter stages of some participatory budgeting processes) should recruit stratified random samples of the demos, but must also ensure that problems of tokenism are overcome by including a critical mass of the least powerful perspectives, so that their views can be aired and heard more fully and effectively. Forums that aim to improve relations between social sectors and peoples should provide open access for all who are affected by the issues (relational and open), if possible, or recruit a stratified random sample of all affected, when necessary (relational and restricted). In either case, proportional representation of the least advantaged perspectives is necessary. However, when deliberation focuses on relations between a disempowered group and the rest of society, or between unequal peoples, it is often most legitimate to over-sample the least powerful and even to create opportunities for the disempowered to deliberate among themselves so that their perspectives can be adequately represented in small and large group discussions. We illustrate this discussion with examples of atypical Deliberative Polls on Australia’s reconciliation with its indigenous community and the Roma ethnic minority in Europe.”

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

Tensions between equality and equity occur at every stage of public deliberation in civic forums, but perhaps nowhere more than with respect to the question of inclusion. Given that deliberative theory is premised on the idea of free and equal citizens exchanging reasons and making decisions together, an abiding concern from both critics and champions of deliberative approaches has centered around whether background inequalities harm disadvantaged groups at various points in the deliberative process (Young, 2000). Such harm may occur prior to any reasons being exchanged at all when inequalities shape who is able to show up to deliberate in the first place. As Gutmann and Thompson put it, “When power is distributed unequally and when money substantially affects who has access to the deliberative forum, the results of deliberation in practice are likely to reflect these inequalities, and therefore lead, in many cases, to unjust outcomes” (2004, p. 48).

A common response to such concerns has been to focus on the representativeness of the deliberating group, making sure that forums are a microcosm of some larger population, whether international, national, or local. One strategy for maximizing inclusion is to open the forum to all who want to participate, while making special efforts to recruit a critical mass of people who would likely be under-represented otherwise (Leighninger, 2012). A second approach, which some deliberative theorists prefer, involves using random sampling to create a deliberating body that looks like the larger group being sampled in as many ways as possible, while giving each member of a population an equal probability of being invited to participate (Barber, 1984; Carson & Martin, 1999; Fishkin, 2009; Gastil, 2008).

Either approach prompts a critical question: who or what exactly needs to be represented inclusively? Many theorists of deliberation have argued that all who are affected by a decision should be represented in discussions (e.g., Cohen, 1989; Dryzek, 2000; Habermas, 1996), while recognizing that in an increasingly interconnected world, it is difficult to draw boundaries around those who are and are not touched in some way by an issue or a decision about it (Fung, 2013; Goodin, 2008). Thus, a deliberation’s legitimacy depends, first, on the justifications for defining who is affected by the issues on the agenda (Karpowitz & Raphael, 2014). Assuming that one has defined those boundaries appropriately, it makes sense to think of the population of all affected by a decision as a collection of perspective bearers most relevant to the issue under deliberation.

What are perspectives and why should we focus on representing them inclusively? In deliberation, participants should be open to reconsidering their beliefs, values, interests, and policy preferences, none of which can be assumed to be simple expressions of their ascriptive characteristics (such as ethnicity, sex, income, or sexual orientation). A perspective involves a structural location in society, which can, of course, be closely connected to social identities of various kinds, but in emphasizing perspectives, we seek to avoid essentializing those identities. Perspectives exist prior to deliberation and enrich discussion as they endure during deliberation. Iris Marion Young (2000) defines perspectives as the accumulated “experience, history, and social knowledge” derived from individuals’ locations in social groups (p. 136). However, as Young makes clear, perspectives do not determine the content of any individual’s beliefs, interests, or opinions. One’s perspective consists, instead, “in a set of questions, kinds of experience, and assumptions with which reasoning begins, rather than the conclusion drawn” (p. 137). In this sense, African-Americans can be said to share a perspective on public life that stems from their common experience of being perceived as black in America. Public forums about racism, income, policing, and many other issues would obviously want to be inclusive and representative of African-Americans without assuming that all black participants will agree on a set of shared interests or values, much less public policies. Similarly, a forum on free speech in schools should aim to include and represent students, who share a similar structural location with respect to the issue, even though they will not necessarily agree with each other about the specific rules, boundaries, and policies that might be proposed in a given school (for further discussion of perspectives, see Karpowitz & Raphael, 2014).

Perspectives are critical to the question of inclusion because a given perspective cannot be easily adopted by someone whose life experiences have occurred in a different social location than that occupied by the holder of that perspective or who has not shared the same set of experiences, history, and social knowledge. Mansbridge argues, for example, that the “vicarious portrayal of the experience of others by those who have not themselves had those experiences is often not enough to promote effective deliberation” (1999, p. 635). Of course, empathy is an important potential outcome of deliberative exchange, but such empathy is less likely if those with a given set of life experiences and perspectives are not present in the discussion. For example, a deliberative forum about contemporary immigration policy would likely be incomplete if it did not include the perspectives of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States from countries like Mexico or children born in the United States to parents who are undocumented. Asking that those immigrant perspectives be fully captured by, say, individuals who immigrated legally from Europe as adults is likely asking for an imaginative and empathetic leap that will be too much for even the best-intentioned deliberator.

An effective deliberative system should ensure that all relevant perspective holders are heard, and our specific focus is on how the least powerful perspective bearers can be included in civic forums. As Mansbridge (1999) has argued in relation to legislatures, a critical mass of more disadvantaged perspectives may be helpful for several distinct reasons. First, when disempowered perspective holders are present, their voices are more likely to be heard, and the stock of arguments, experiences, reasons, and evidence from disempowered perspectives is likely to be larger. Second, and relatedly, a critical mass may bolster the courage of the disempowered to offer minority viewpoints, and hearing those viewpoints from more than one deliberator may push others – both members of the disempowered group and those who are comparatively more empowered – to take those ideas seriously. Third, in many forums the giving and receiving of reasons occurs not only in large plenary sessions, but also (and crucially) in small break-out sessions and discussion groups, both formal and informal. A critical mass thus increases the likelihood that disempowered perspectives are heard throughout the forum. Fourth, when a greater diversity of disempowered viewpoints is present, no one deliberator is forced to be a token who represents the whole of her social group, a fact that works against an oversimplified, stereotyped, or essentialized view of who the disadvantaged are and what they want.

This is an excerpt of the article, which can be downloaded in full from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

About the Journal of Public Deliberation
Journal of Public DeliberationSpearheaded by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in collaboration with the International Association of Public Participation, the principal objective of Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD) is to synthesize the research, opinion, projects, experiments and experiences of academics and practitioners in the emerging multi-disciplinary field and political movement called by some “deliberative democracy.” By doing this, we hope to help improve future research endeavors in this field and aid in the transformation of modern representative democracy into a more citizen friendly form.

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

Follow the International Association of Public Participation [US] on Twitter: @IAP2USA

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol12/iss2/art3/

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