The systemic turn in deliberative democratic theory has shifted the focus away from seeking to design separate, internally deliberative ‘mini-publics’ and towards a new appreciation of their external, systemic quality. Yet, so far, such accounts have not gone beyond recognising a potential for mini-publics to contribute to deliberative systems. In this paper, we argue that a systemic conceptualisation of mini-publics must recognise their fundamentally ambivalent character: Since mini-publics have the potential both to foster and to undermine systemic deliberation, it is insufficient to celebrate their positive potential alone, and vital to develop frameworks that allow for a critical evaluation of mini-publics’ systemic role. To this end, we propose a framework based on the systemic qualities of deliberation-making, legitimacy-seeking and capacity-building, and conclude that key to mini-publics’ quality, when judged against these criteria, is not just their own features, but the degree of ‘co-development’ of all system components.
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We borrow the term ‘functional imperatives’ from Parsons’ (1971) account of the social system which is composed of various components that fulfil particular functions to ensure the system’s survival.
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The authors thank John Dryzek for his comments on an early draft of this manuscript and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback.
This project is partially funded by an Australian Research Council Grant ‘Deliberative democracy in the public sphere: achieving deliberative outcomes in mass publics’ (DP120103976).
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Curato, N., Böker, M. Linking mini-publics to the deliberative system: a research agenda. Policy Sci 49, 173–190 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-015-9238-5
- Deliberative democracy
- Deliberative system