Rationality and deliberative democracy: a constructive critique of John Dryzek's democratic theory

Adrian Blau

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Abstract

John Dryzek's justification of deliberative democracy rests on a critiqueof instrumental rationality and a defence of Habermas’s idea of communicativerationality. I question each stage of Dryzek’s theory. It defines instrumentalrationality broadly but only criticises narrow applications of it. It conflates communicative rationality with Habermas’s idea of ‘discourse’ – the real motor ofDryzek’s democratic theory. Deliberative democracy can be better defended byavoiding overstated criticisms of instrumental rationality, by altering the emphasis on communicative rationality, and by focusing more on different models of politicsthan different models of rationality. Dryzek’s theory can thus present deliberativedemocracy as a better means to better ends – a more powerful and more positiveposition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-57
Number of pages21
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

Keywords

  • communicative rationality
  • critical theory
  • deliberative democracy
  • democracy
  • Habermas
  • instrumental rationality

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