Neither Completely Political nor Completely Unpolitical. The Third Way of Deliberative Arenas


Sometimes governments choose to include ordinary people at some stage of the policy making process by setting up temporary and structured arenas where participants are put in a posi-tion whereby they can deliberate on public issues and make decisions or propose suggestions. Do such deliberative arenas depoliticize democracy, as a vast amount of literature suggests? This article is aimed at challenging this point of view, by giving a close look at two cases of democratic experi-mentation. An analysis of what actually happens in those venues shows that such arenas appear to display, at the same time, both unpolitical and political features. On one hand, they are non-majoritarian bodies, just like other depoliticized venues, but on the other, they deal with conflicts and discuss goals, and thus perform typical political activities. It is possible to say that they are nei-ther completely political nor completely unpolitical. They instead have a hybrid nature that can coun-teract the continuous fluctuations between (hyper)politicization and (hyper)depoliticization that are so typical of our times. This implies a revision of the standard theory of politicization/depoliticization that does not consider the possibility of gray areas. Overcoming the rigid opposition between the two terms of the dichotomy can lead to the discovery of some interesting possibilities that often tend to be overlooked.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v10i2p613

Keywords: deliberative arenas; deliberative democracy; depoliticization; minipublics; public de-bate


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