Deliberative Democracy – Theory and Practice: The Case of the Belgrade Citizens’ Assembly
Keywords:deliberative democracy, citizens’ assembly, public deliberation, democratic legitimacy, political engagement
In this paper, we examine whether it is possible to improve democracy by encouraging ordinary citizens to participate in political decision-making and if participation in deliberative institutions can make citizens more competent decision-makers. By using qualitative data, we analyze the discussion from the Belgrade citizens’ assembly (CA) focused on the topic of expanding the pedestrian zone in the city center. The CA was organized in Serbia for the first time, as part of a research project aimed at promoting and advancing innovative democratic practices in the Western Balkans. The goal was to encourage the involvement of citizens in discussions of public interest. Our hypothesis was that, through the process of participation and deliberation in CA, ordinary citizens can make reasonable and informed choices, increase their knowledge of the issue discussed, and become more motivated to participate in political decision-making on the local level. Our qualitative content analysis suggests that deliberation had a positive impact on participants’ knowledge of the chosen topic of the assembly. It also shows that citizens used exhaustive explanations rather than brief statements, could differentiate the good arguments from the bad, and more often appealed to general rather than private interests. Participants in the assembly reported a significant increase in interest in political decision-making that affects their lives, as well as a sense of being informed about politics. Finally, we wanted to draw attention to the challenges and open questions that remain, namely those that concern the impact of a deliberative body on political decision-making in the real world.
Achen, Christopher; Bartels, Larry (2016), “Democracy for Realists: Holding up a Mirror to the Electorate”, Juncture 22 (4): 269–275.
Ahlstrom-Vij, Kristoffer (2019), “The Epistemic Benefits of Democracy: A Critical Assessment”, in Miranda Fricker, Peter J. Graham, David Henderson, Nikolaj J. L. L. Pedersen (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology, New York: Routledge, pp: 406–414.
Bächtiger, André; Dryzek, John; Mansbridge, Jane; Warren, Mark (eds.) (2018), The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Benhabib, Seyla (ed.) (1996), Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Besson, Samantha; Marti, José Luis (eds.) (2006), Deliberative Democracy and its Discontents, Hampshire, UK: Ashgate.
Bohman, James (1995), “Public Reason and Cultural Pluralism: Political Liberalism and the Problem of Moral Conflict”, Political theory 23 (2): 253–279.
—. (1996), Public Deliberation: Plurality, Complexity, and Democracy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
—. (1998), “Survey Article: The Coming of Age of Deliberative Democracy”, Journal of political philosophy 6 (4): 400–425.
Bohman, James; Rehg, William (eds.) (1997), Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Brennan, Jason (2016), Against Democracy, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Caplan, Bryan (2011), The Myth of the Rational Voter, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Carothers, Thomas; O’Donohue, Andrew (eds.) (2019), Democracies Divided: The Global Challenge of Political Polarization, Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.
Carpini, Michael X. Delli; Lomax Cook, Fay; Jacobs, Lawrence R. (2004), “Public Deliberation, Discursive Participation, and Citizen Engagement: A Review of the Empirical Literature”, Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 7: 315–344.
Carpini, Michael X. Delli; Keeter, Scott (1996), What Americans Know about Politics and Why it Matters, Yale University Press.
Cohen, Joshua (1989), “Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy”, in Alan Hemlin, Philip Pettit (eds.), The Good Polity: Normative analysis of the State, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 17–34.
—. (1997), “Procedure and Substance in Deliberative Democracy”, in James Bohman, William Rehg (eds.), Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics, Cambridge, MA; London: MIT Press, pp. 407–437.
Dahl, Robert A. (1990), After the Revolution? Authority in a Good Society, Yale: Yale University Press.
Downs, Anthony (1957), An Economic Theory of Democracy, New York: Harper & Bros.
Dryzek, John S. (2000), Deliberative Democracy and beyond, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
—. (2007), “Theory, Evidence, and the Tasks of Deliberation”, in Shawn W. Rosenberg (ed.), Deliberation, Participation and Democracy: Can the People Govern?, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 237–250.
—. (2010), Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dryzek, John S.; Bächtiger, André; Milewicz, Karolina (2011), “Toward a Deliberative Global Citizens’ Assembly”, Global Policy 2 (1): 33–42.
Dryzek, John S.; Bächtiger, André; Chambers, Simone; Cohen, Joshua; Druckman, James, N.; Felicetti, Andrea; Warren, Mark E. (2019), “The Crisis of Democracy and the Science of Deliberation”, Science 363 (6432): 1144–1146.
Đorđević, Ana; Vasiljević, Jelena (2022), “The Effects of Deliberation on Citizen Knowledge Attitudes and Preferences: A Case Study of a Belgrade Mini Public”, Philosophy and Society 33 (1): 72–97.
Elstub, Stephen (2014), “Mini-publics: Issues and cases”, in Stephen Elstub, Peter McLaverty (eds.), Deliberative Democracy: Issues and Cases, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 166–188.
Elster, Jon (ed.) (1998), Deliberative Democracy, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Fiket, Irena; Pavlović, Zoran; Pudar Draško, Gazela (2017), Političke orijentacije građana Srbije: Kartografija nemoći [Political orientations of citizens of Serbia: Cartography of impotence], Beograd: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Fiket, Irena; Đorđević, Biljana (2022), “Promises and Challenges of Deliberative and Participatory Innovations in Hybrid Regimes: The Case of Two Citizens’ Assemblies in Serbia”, Philosophy and Society 33 (1): 3–25.
Fishkin, James S. (1995), Voice of the People: Public Opinion and Democracy, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
—. (2009), When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fishkin, James S.; Luskin, Robert C.; Jowell, Roger (2000), “Deliberative Polling and Public Consultation”, Parliamentary affairs 53 (4): 657–666.
Fishkin, James S.; Luskin, Robert C. (2005), “Experimenting with a Democratic Ideal: Deliberative Polling and Public Opinion”, Acta Politica 40 (3): 284–298.
Freeman, Samuel (2000), “Deliberative Democracy: A Sympathetic Comment”, Philosophy & public affairs 29 (4): 371–418.
Gerber, Marlène; Bächtiger, André; Shikano, Susumu; Reber Simon; Rohr Samuel (2018), “Deliberative Abilities and Influence in a Transnational Deliberative Poll (EuroPolis)”, British Journal of Political Science 48 (4): 1093–1118.
Goodin, Robert E.; Dryzek, John S. (2006), “Deliberative Impacts: The Macro-Political Uptake of Mini-Publics”, Politics and Society 34 (2): 219–244.
Goodin, Robert E. (2008), “First Talk, then Vote”, in Robert E. Goodin, Innovating Democracy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 108–124.
Greenberg, Jessica (2010), “‘There’s Nothing Anyone Can Do About It’: Participation, Apathy, and ‘Successful’ Democratic Transition in Postsocialist Serbia”, Slavic Review 69 (1): 41–64.
Gutmann, Amy; Thompson, Dennis F. (1996), Democracy and Disagreement, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
—. (2004), Why Deliberative Democracy, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Habermas, Jürgen (1984), The Theory of Communicative Action, 2 vols, Thomas Mc Carthy (transl.), Boston: Beacon.
—. (1995), “Reconciliation Through the Public Use of Reason: Remarks on John Rawls’s Political Liberalism”, Journal of Philosophy 92 (3): 109–131.
—. (1996), Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Harder, Joshua; Krosnick Jon A. (2008), “Why Do People Vote? A Psychological Analysis of the Causes of Voter Turnout”, Journal of Social Sciences 64 (3): 525–549.
James, Michael R. (2008), “Descriptive Representation in Citizen Assemblies”, in Mark E. Warren, Hilary Pearse (eds.), Designing Deliberative Democracy: The British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 106–126.
Janssen, Davy; Kies, Raphaël (2005), “Online Forums and Deliberative Democracy”, Acta política 40 (3): 317–335.
Knight, Jack; Johnson, James (1997), “What Sort of Political Equality does Democratic Deliberation Require?”, in James Bohman, William Rehg (eds.), Deliberative Democracy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 279–319.
Landemore, Hélène (2012), Democratic Reason, Princeton University Press.
Lipset, Seymour Martin (1960), Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics, New York: Johns Hopkins University Press.
List, Christian; Luskin, Robert C.; Fishkin, James S.; McLean, Iain (2012), “Deliberation, Single-peakedness, and the Possibility of Meaningful Democracy: Evidence from Deliberative Polls”, The Journal of Politics 75 (1): 80–95.
Lupia, Arthur (2006), “How Elitism Undermines the Study of Voter Competence”, Critical Review 18 (1–3): 217–232.
Luskin, Robery C. (1987), “Measuring Political Sophistication”, American journal of political science 31 (4): 856–899.
Macedo, Stephen (ed.) (1999.), Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Mansbridge, Jane; Hartz-Karp, Janette; Amengual, Matthew; Gastil, John (2006), “Norms of Deliberation: An Inductive Study”, Journal of Public Deliberation 2 (1): Article 7.
—. (2017), “Norms of Deliberation: An Inductive Study”, in Multi-Party Dispute Resolution, Democracy and Decision-Making, London; New York: Routledge, pp. 139–185.
Manin, Bernard (1987), “On Legitimacy and Political Deliberation”, Political theory 15 (3): 338–368.
McCoy, Martha L.; Scully, Patrick L. (2002), “Deliberative Dialogue to Expand Civic Engagement: What Kind of Talk Does Democracy Need?”, National Civic Review 91 (2): 117–135.
McCoy, Jennifer; Rahman, Tahmina; Somer, Murat (2018), “Polarization and the Global Crisis of Democracy: Common Patterns, Dynamics, and Pernicious Consequences for Democratic Polities”, American Behavioral Scientist 62 (1): 16–42.
Mercier, Hugo; Landemore, Hélène (2012), “Reasoning is for Arguing: Understanding the Successes and Failures of Deliberation”, Political psychology 33 (2): 243–258.
Meyer, William J. (1974), “Democracy: Needs over Wants”, Political Theory 2 (2): 197–214.
Meyers, Renée A.; Brashers, Dale E. (1998), “Argument in Group Decision Making: Explicating a Process Model and Investigating the Argument-outcome Link”, Communications Monographs 65 (4): 261–281.
Min, Seong-Jae (2007), “Online vs. face-to-face Deliberation: Effects on Civic Engagement”, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 12 (4): 1369–1387.
Neblo, Michael A. (2015), Deliberative Democracy between Theory and Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nussbaum, Martha C. (2001), Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Parkinson, John; Bächtiger, André (2019), Mapping and Measuring Deliberation: Towards a New Deliberative Quality, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Parvin, Phil (2018), “Democracy without Participation: A New Politics for a Disengaged Era”, Res Publica 24 (1): 31–52.
Perry, Jonathan (2021), Trust in Public institutions: Trends and Implications for Economic Security.
Polletta, Francesca; Chen, Pang Ching Bobby (2013), “Gender and Public Talk: Accounting for Women’s Variable Participation in the Public Sphere”, Sociological Theory 31: 291–317.
Polletta, Francesca; Gardner, Beth Gharrity (2018), “The Forms of Deliberative Communication”, in André Bächtiger, John S. Dryzek, Jane Mansbridge, Mark Warren (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy, pp. 69–85.
Rawls, John (1993), Political Liberalism, New York: Columbia University Press.
—. (1997), “The Idea of Public Reason”, in James Bohman, William Rehg (eds.), Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason in Politics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, ch. 4.
Riker, William H. (1982), Liberalism Against Populism: A Confrontation Between the Theory of Democracy and the Theory of Social Choice, Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.
Rosenberg, Shawn W. (2007), “Rethinking Democratic Deliberation: The Limits and Potential of Citizen Participation”, Polity 39 (3): 335–360.
—. (2014), “Citizen Competence and the Psychology of Deliberation”, in Stephen Elstub, Peter McLaverty (eds.), Deliberative Democracy: Issues and Cases, pp. 98–117.
Ryfe, David M. (2005), “Does Deliberative Democracy Work?”, Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci., 8, 49–71.
Schumpeter, Joseph A. (1942), Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, New York: Hamper Brother.
Solijonov, Abdurashid (2016), Voter Turnout Trends Around the World, Stockholm: International IDE.
Steenbergen, Marco R.; Bächtiger, André; Spörndli, Marcus; Steiner, Jürg (2003), “Measuring Political Deliberation: A Discourse Quality Index”, Comparative European Politics 1 (1): 21–48.
Siu, Alice (2009), Look Who’s Talking: Examining Social Influence, Opinion Change, and Argument Quality in Deliberation, Stanford University.
Sunstein, Cass R. (1999), “The Law of Group Polarization”, University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper (No. 91).
Warren, Mark E.; Pearse, Hilary (2008), Designing Deliberative Democracy: The British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Young, Iris Marion (2000), Inclusion and Democracy, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
—. (2001), “Activist Challenges to Deliberative Democracy”, Political Theory, 29 (5): 670–690.
Zaller, John Raymond (1992), The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Filozofija i društvo/Philosophy and Society
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Articles published in Philosophy and Society are open-access in accordance with the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License.