From Deliberation to Participation: Democratic Commitments and the Paradox of Voting
Keywords:democracy, deliberation, participation, voting, civic, commitments
In this paper, I examine the view that, surprisingly, the more citizens deliberate about politics, the less likely they are to participate in the realm of the political, and vice versa. In the first part of the paper, I approach the problem from the perspective of the paradox of voting, the claim that voting itself is instrumentally irrational because of the very low probability that a single vote will make any difference at the elections. In the second part of the paper, I argue that rather than analyzing voting instrumentally, it is better to view it as part of the civic commitments that constitute what it means to be a citizen in a democratic society. The act of voting is not primarily an individual’s attempt to decisively influence any particular outcome, but an affirmation of the key practice that upholds the democratic society in which citizens play a part. This reveals a meta-paradox of voting. Namely, to not vote is to exhibit a type of behavior that implies acceptance of democracy simultaneously with rejecting its defining component. Because of that, I will claim, not voting is itself irrational. In light of that conclusion, in the third part of the paper, I explore the extant divide between deliberation and participation by referring back to the analysis of civic commitments. Whereas participation without deliberating reveals ideological bias, deliberation without participation expresses a lack of understanding of what it means to be a citizen. The way to connect them is to engage in a process of attaining reflective equilibrium between the two, starting from the practice of deliberation that would be fully informed by the awareness of our democratic commitments and disconnected from ideologically motivated participation.
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