Acta Politica

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 423–442 | Cite as

A sequential analysis of democratic deliberation

  • Nicole Curato
Original Article


Recent developments in deliberative democratic theory have witnessed a renegotiation of classic deliberative principles to conceptualise the form deliberation could take under suboptimal speech situations. Application of deliberative virtues is negotiated, suggesting that different contexts warrant different deliberative expectations. Such approach presents a topical model of deliberation but it also raises concerns regarding the extent of these norms’ negotiability, whether there remain core deliberative virtues that cannot be compromised regardless of the context. This piece addresses this theoretical challenge by putting forward a sequential analysis of democratic deliberation. It draws on pragma-dialectics, an approach to the study of argumentation that examines how a ‘difference of opinion’ is handled in practice. It suggests that deliberative norms and discursive tactics have specialised functions at particular moments of exchange while retaining focus on components that make deliberation a distinct form of political practice.


deliberative democracy argumentation theory activism 



I would like to thank John Dryzek, Andrew Knops and the anonymous reviewers for the constructive feedback on the earlier drafts of this paper.


  1. Bächtiger, A., Niemeyer, S., Neblo, M., Steenbergen, M.R. and Steiner, J. (2010) Disentangling diversity in deliberative democracy: Competing theories, their blind spots and complementarities. The Journal of Political Philosophy 18 (1): 32–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chambers, S. (2009) Rhetoric and the public sphere: Has deliberative democracy abandoned democracy? Political Theory 37 (3): 323–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dryzek, J. (2010) Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Eemeren, F.H. van and Grootendorst, R. (2004) A Systematic Theory of Argumentation: The Pragma-Dialectical Approach. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Eemeren, F.H. van, Grootendorst, R. and Henkemans, F.S. (2002) Argumentation: Analysis, Evaluation, Presentation. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  6. Festenstein, M. (2002) Deliberation, citizenship and identity. In: M.P. d’Entrèves (ed.) Democracy as Public Deliberation. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, pp. 88–111.Google Scholar
  7. Fung, A. (2005) Deliberation before the revolution: Toward an ethics of deliberative democracy in an unjust world. Political Theory 33 (2): 397–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Goodin, R.E. (2005) Sequencing deliberative moments. Acta Politica 40 (2): 182–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gutmann, A. and Thompson, D. (2004) Why Deliberative Democracy? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Habermas, J. (1998) What is universal pragmatics? In: M. Cooke (ed.) On the Pragmatics of Communication. Massachusetts: MIT Press, pp. 21–104.Google Scholar
  11. Hall, C. (2007) Recognising the passion in deliberation: Toward a more democratic theory of deliberative democracy. Hypatia 22 (4): 81–95.Google Scholar
  12. Hendriks, C.M. (2006) Integrated deliberation: Reconciling civil society's dual role in deliberative democracy. Political Studies 54 (3): 486–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kadlec, A. and Friedman, W. (2007) Deliberative democracy and the problem of power. Journal of Public Deliberation 3 (1): 1–26.Google Scholar
  14. Knops, A. (2006) Delivering deliberation's emancipatory potential. Political Theory 34 (5): 594–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Krabbe, E.C.W. (2003) Metadialogues. In: F.H. van Eemeren, J.A. Blair, C.A. Willard and A.F.S. Henkemans (eds.) Anyone Who Has a View: Theoretical Contributions to the Study of Argumentation. Dordrecht, MA: Kluwer (Argumentation Library 8), pp. 83–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mansbridge, J. (1999) Everyday talk in the deliberative system. In: S. Macedo (ed.) Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, pp. 211–239.Google Scholar
  17. Mansbridge, J., Hartz-Karp, J., Amenqual, M. and Gastil, J. (2006) Norms of deliberation: An inductive study. Journal of Public Deliberation 2 (1): 1–47.Google Scholar
  18. Mansbridge, J. et al (2010) The place of self-interest and the role of power in deliberative democracy. Journal of Political Philosophy 18 (1): 64–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mouffe, C. (2000) The Democratic Paradox. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  20. Parkinson, J. and Mansbridge, J. (eds.) (2012) Deliberative Systems: Deliberative Democracy at the Large Scale. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Polletta, F. and Lee, J. (2006) Is telling stories good for democracy? Rhetoric in public deliberation after 9/11. American Sociological Review 71 (5): 699–723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rees, M.A. van (2007) Discourse analysis and argumentation theory: The case of television talk. Journal of Pragmatics 39 (8): 1454–1463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rostbøll, C.F. (2009) Dissent, criticism, and transformative political action in deliberative democracy. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 12 (1): 19–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sanders, L.M. (1997) Against deliberation. Political Theory 25 (3): 347–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Thompson, D.F. (2008) Deliberative democratic theory and empirical political science. Annual Review of Political Science 11: 497–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Vedung, E. (1987) Rational argumentation and political deception. In: F.H. van Eemeren, R. Grootendorst, J.A. Blair and Ch. A. Willard (eds.) Argumentation: Across the Lines of Discipline. Proceedings of the Conference on Argumentation. Dordrecht, MA/Providence, RI: Foris Publications, PDA 3, pp. 353–364.Google Scholar
  27. Warren, M. (2006) What should and should not be said: Deliberative sensitive issues. Journal of Social Philosophy 37 (2): 163–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Young, I.M. (1996) Communication and the other: Beyond deliberative democracy. In: S. Benhabib (ed.) Democracy and Difference. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, pp. 120–135.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole Curato
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance, Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations