What kind of dialogue do we need? Gender, deliberation and comprehensive values

2015-07-13T14:43:46Z (GMT) by Clare Chambers Phil Parvin
Recent branches of political theory, including feminism, communitarianism, identity theory and difference theory, have criticised liberalism and liberal democratic politics for failing to recognise the importance of group diversity and identity. In response, political and democratic theorists have increasingly appealed to public deliberation as a means of resolving political questions. Deliberative democrats, for example, have sought to move beyond traditional understandings of democracy as a merely representative system by recasting it as a regime in which individual citizens determine policy outcomes and political decisions through their active participation in public dialogue with one another. Many liberals, meanwhile, have increasingly sought to ground liberal principles in agreements struck between participants in some form of deliberative process. That is, having taken on board claims about the importance of difference and identity to the ways in which people think and the values they hold, many liberal political theorists have felt the need to retreat from controversial commitments to substantive principles such as autonomy, and have instead grounded their theories in a more general commitment to public dialogue. Where liberalism was generally seen as either a perfectionist theory which stipulated the supremacy of certain values over others or a contractualist theory premised upon some appropriately modelled agreement between individuals bound by common standards of rationality, it is now increasingly seen as a deliberative theory rooted in inclusive dialogue among situated individuals. In making the transition from contractualism to deliberation, many liberals feel that they have developed a more effective way of justifying liberal principles in circumstances of diversity, by foregrounding inclusive, collective dialogue over hypothetical contracts and agreement models which require everyone to act and think in the same way.