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Political UtopiasContemporary Debates$
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Michael Weber and Kevin Vallier

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190280598

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190280598.001.0001

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The Need for Non-Ideal Theory

The Need for Non-Ideal Theory

A Case Study in Deliberative Democracy

(p.203) 9 The Need for Non-Ideal Theory
Political Utopias

Danielle M. Wenner

Oxford University Press

This paper illustrates some concerns about ideal theory by problematizing deliberative democracy. Deliberative democrats argue that inclusive deliberation conducted among equals who offer reasons in support of positions can confer legitimacy on democratic political outcomes. However, this argument is predicated on idealized assumptions about the ability and willingness of deliberators to interact in ways that either generate epistemically superior outcomes or ensure equal access to deliberation. The chapter argues that these assumptions fail to withstand scrutiny, and that this failure undermines the legitimacy-conferring status of deliberation. Moreover, in failing to account for the ways existing injustices can influence group decision-making, deliberation may also serve to entrench and even propagate those injustices. This suggests that an account of deliberative democracy capable of grounding claims to legitimacy must begin from a standpoint more fully informed about the ways cultural, personal, social, and economic differences can impact the process and outcome of deliberative decision-making.

Keywords:   non-ideal theory, democratic theory, deliberative democracy, epistemic democracy, epistemic injustice, linguistic injustice

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