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The Deliberative Potential of Facultative Referendums: Procedure and Substance in Direct Democracy


el-Wakil, Alice (2017). The Deliberative Potential of Facultative Referendums: Procedure and Substance in Direct Democracy. Democratic Theory, 4(1):59-78.

Abstract

Deliberative democracy theorists have long dismissed direct democratic mechanisms, suspecting them of fundamentally contradicting the deliberative ideal. One reason for this dismissal is that, as aggregative devices, all direct democratic institutions would implement a purely procedural view of democracy deemed undesirable. In this article, I contest this objection to all direct democratic procedures by showing that one of them, namely, the facultative referendum, corresponds to Joshua Cohen’s definition of substantive democracy. Moreover, because it introduces uncertainty in the democratic system and replaces hypothetical with actual acceptance of reasons, the facultative referendum gives political actors strong incentives to think in terms of acceptable justifi cations and can screen outcomes that fit the three principles of Cohen’s deliberative ideal. These findings should encourage deliberative democracy theorists to further develop tools to inform the design and assessment of the growing number of popular votes around the world and ultimately enhance their democratic quality.

Abstract

Deliberative democracy theorists have long dismissed direct democratic mechanisms, suspecting them of fundamentally contradicting the deliberative ideal. One reason for this dismissal is that, as aggregative devices, all direct democratic institutions would implement a purely procedural view of democracy deemed undesirable. In this article, I contest this objection to all direct democratic procedures by showing that one of them, namely, the facultative referendum, corresponds to Joshua Cohen’s definition of substantive democracy. Moreover, because it introduces uncertainty in the democratic system and replaces hypothetical with actual acceptance of reasons, the facultative referendum gives political actors strong incentives to think in terms of acceptable justifi cations and can screen outcomes that fit the three principles of Cohen’s deliberative ideal. These findings should encourage deliberative democracy theorists to further develop tools to inform the design and assessment of the growing number of popular votes around the world and ultimately enhance their democratic quality.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Uncontrolled Keywords:contestation, democratic legitimacy, institutional design, participatory politics, popular vote, veto power
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:09 May 2017 14:29
Last Modified:09 May 2017 14:32
Publisher:Berghahn Books Ltd.
ISSN:2332-8894
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3167/dt.2017.040104
Other Identification Number:23328908

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