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Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies
 9780748627035

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Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Ian O’Flynn

Edinburgh University Press

This book is dedicated to my parents, James and Catherine O’Flynn

# Ian O’Flynn, 2006 Edinburgh University Press Ltd 22 George Square, Edinburgh Typeset in Goudy Old Style by Iolaire Typesetting, Newtonmore, and printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd, Bodmin, Cornwall A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN–10 0 7486 2144 X (hardback) ISBN–13 978 0 7486 2144 6 (hardback) The right of Ian O’Flynn to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Contents

Acknowledgements

vii

Introduction 1. Locating the Discussion 2. Division, Democracy and Deliberation 3. Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship 4. The Requirement of Reciprocity 5. The Requirement of Publicity 6. Dilemmas of Exclusion 7. Civil Society and Political Institutions

1 13 32 54 77 98 120 141

Bibliography Index

163 177

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Acknowledgements

I have acquired a great many debts in writing this book. I owe a special word of thanks to my mentor, Albert Weale, not only for his support and encouragement, but also for helping me to appreciate the standards towards which I should continually aspire. Special thanks are also owed to David Russell for teaching me so much about the study of ethnic conflict and for his willingness to challenge my philosophical assumptions at every turn. I have discussed the ideas and arguments contained in this book with many other people, some of whom were kind enough to provide written comments on earlier drafts. While they may not agree with the conclusions that I have reached, I look forward none the less to continuing our discussions in the future. In particular, I wish to express my gratitude to Derek Bell, Richard Bellamy, Thom Brooks, Ben Eidelson, Robert Goodin, Donald Horowitz, Peter Jones, Todd Landman, Andrew Lian, Graham Long, Jane McConkey, John McGarry, Brendan O’Leary, Shane O’Neill, Marc Ross, Rachel Rebouche´ and Robin Wilson. I am also grateful to two anonymous referees for their constructive criticisms and suggestions. Nicola Ramsey, my editor at Edinburgh University Press, did much to improve the initial proposal for this book. I also thank her for the firm but good-natured way in which she pressed me to complete the final manuscript. I would not have been able to write this book without the love and support of family and friends. Above all, I wish to thank my two wonderful sisters, Karen and Deborah, and my parents, Catherine and James, to whom this book is dedicated. Now that it is finally complete, I look forward to spending more time in their company. Ian O’Flynn Newcastle upon Tyne

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Introduction

Introduction The idea of a specifically deliberative model of democracy, in which collective decisions are arrived at through public reasoning and discussion among equal citizens, is not new. Since about 1990, however, that idea has undergone a major revival – so much so that deliberative democracy is now firmly established as one of the most important positions in contemporary democratic theory. The reasons driving this revival are manifold, but three broad considerations stand out. First, many democratic theorists had become increasingly dissatisfied with the prevailing view that, because democracy imposes unrealistic demands on the time and attention of ordinary citizens, the business of making political decisions should be left to political elites who would then be held to account at election time. Democratic theorists sought to reject this elitist model of democracy in favour of a model that could allow ordinary citizens a much more effective say in the making of the political decisions by which they are bound. Second, the deliberative revival was also driven by a desire to afford a greater say to individuals and groups who, through no fault of their own, were politically marginalised. Partly, this was in response to the arguments of feminists and multiculturalists. But it was also in response to the more general failure of political elites to respond adequately to the interests and experiences of ordinary citizens or to advance the cause of social justice more generally. Finally, democratic theorists were also concerned with the quality of democracy itself. In particular, they were searching for new means of addressing the growing levels of political disaffection among ordinary citizens and the concomitant atrophying of civic life. More generally, they sought to replace the negative view of ordinary citizens that underpinned the elitist model of democracy with a positive view that stressed the social and moral benefits that could be secured if citizens were given the opportunity to participate to at least some extent in political life. Democratic —1—

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies theorists sought answers to all of these issues and concerns in deliberative democracy (cf. Goodin 2003: 2–7). At around the same time that deliberative democracy was once again beginning to excite democratic theorists, a major shift was also occurring within the field of comparative politics. Comparative scholars were already interested in the problems faced by societies deeply divided along ethnic lines. But as the cold war drew to a close, the need to find institutional solutions to those problems took on even greater urgency. The breakup of former communist federations led not just to a proliferation of newly independent states, but also to a resurgence of ethnicity as a political force among groups of people searching for a sense of social cohesion and belonging. In some cases, that resurgence had relatively benign effects, as in the partition of Czechoslovakia. In a great many other cases, however, it had much more deadly consequences. In particular, many of the states that had constituted the Yugoslav federation descended into brutal warfare, as ethnic groups fought to protect their identity, or to assert its dominance, and to gain control over land and other valuable resources, including the state itself. The ending of the cold war did not, however, simply impact upon former communist federations. It also had tremendous consequences for certain African, South American and Asian states that were left to their own devices once their strategic importance to the superpowers had receded. Afghanistan is perhaps the best-known example. Soviet troops invaded in 1979 to prop up a pro-communist regime, but were forced to withdraw ten years later by anti-communist Mujahidin fighters supported principally by the United States. Once the pro-communist regime collapsed in 1992, the fighting that then erupted among the various Mujahidin factions eventually helped to spawn the Taleban, drawn from the ethnic majority Pashtun community, who were, in their turn, opposed by an alliance of minority ethnic factions located in the northeast of the country. Afghanistan’s internal ethnic divisions continue to lie close to the heart of the predicament that the international community faces today in trying to deal with global Islamist terrorism. Of course, it is important not to overplay the impact that the cold war had on divided societies. Many ethnic conflicts, such as those in the Basque Country, Israel/Palestine and Northern Ireland, had been ongoing throughout the superpower era and indeed stretched back long before 1945. Nevertheless, the ending of the cold war did have at least one significant consequence for divided societies in general – it allowed comparative scholars to focus much more of their attention on the challenges of reducing conflict and deepening democracy in such societies (Horowitz —2—

Introduction 2002a: 15). For the most part, those scholars have focused their attentions on the role that democratic power-sharing institutions can play in securing political stability between conflicting ethnic groups. They have produced an impressive body of empirical findings and policy prescriptions that have contributed in no small measure to our understanding of how divided societies might be managed democratically. But this is not all. Comparative scholars specialising in the study of ethno-political conflict often have a great deal of first-hand, practical experience. They often work with, or for, international and non-governmental organisations, and are regularly consulted by governments and commissions struggling to deal with the variegated, and all too often tragic, problems that ethno-political divisions bring. Despite these considerable efforts and successes, ethnic conflict is a continuing, global problem. For instance, the Heidelberg Institute on International Conflict Research reports that there are 230 political conflicts worldwide, 164 of which are internal conflicts. Of those 164 internal conflicts, 36 involve extremely high levels of violence, whereas 51 are defined as ‘levelled crises’, meaning that violence is conducted at a lower level of intensity (Conflict Barometer 2004). Or again, the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland reports that, of the 161 countries it surveyed, 85 risk mismanaging societal crises. Of these countries, 34 (including Armenia, Cambodia, Haiti, Iran, Lebanon and Pakistan, along with 17 African countries) are at serious risk of succumbing to civil war or governmental collapse (Peace and Ethnic Conflict 2005). Of course, statistics are always open to dispute, and societies may be more or less divided. Nevertheless, all the available evidence supports the view that ethnic conflict is one of the most serious and pervasive political problems that we face today. Great challenges remain, therefore. For the most part, however, deliberative theorists have been extremely slow to respond to those challenges or to engage with comparative scholars (but see, for example, Valadez 2000; O’Neill 2002; James 2004; Dryzek 2005). This is all the more surprising, given that deliberative theorists and comparative scholars are, broadly speaking, concerned with the same kinds of political issues – the need to respond constructively to social diversity, to redress hierarchical relationships between identity groups, to promote political equality and social justice, as well as the more general concern with deepening democracy. So why is it that the contemporary revival of deliberative democracy has had so little to say about one of the most pressing contemporary political problems?

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Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Why deliberative democracy? It is not entirely clear why deliberative democrats have not paid more attention to the problems faced by divided societies. It may be that some deliberative theorists are of the view that deliberative democracy is only applicable to societies that are not deeply divided along ethnic lines. After all, democratic deliberation requires a certain level of trust or mutual understanding if it is to succeed – if I am going to listen to your arguments with an open mind and be willing to shift my own position in the light of what I have heard, then I must trust that you will listen to mine in the same spirit, and that you will also be willing to comply with whatever we have agreed at the end of the day. However, while it can hardly be denied that levels of trust are low in divided societies, there are two important points that must not be overlooked. First, we should not assume that, as Joshua Cohen puts it, ‘free deliberation could proceed in the absence of appropriate institutions. Neither the commitment to nor the capacity for arriving at deliberative decisions is something that we can simply assume to obtain independent from the proper ordering of institutions’ (1997a: 79). Although levels of trust will doubtlessly be low, this does not preclude the possibility of designing power-sharing institutions in a way that facilitates deliberation and fosters trust. In other words, we should not assume that the structure of political incentives cannot be organised so that it encourages citizens and representatives to deliberate across ethnic lines. Of course, deliberative theorists may not be especially good at designing institutions. But that is why they must engage with comparative political scientists. Deliberative democrats need not simply accept the institutional prescriptions of comparative scholars, however. On the contrary, a principal reason for applying deliberative democracy to deeply divided societies is to provide normative standards that can inform the choice of power-sharing institutions in the first instance, and, later, to guide the progress of those institutions, towards or away from those standards, over time (see Cohen 1997a: 73; O’Flynn 2005). This brings me to a second important point. Deliberative democracy is a normative ideal. It is, moreover, a normative ideal that may turn out to be unrealisable in some divided societies. Nevertheless, this does not take from the fact that, if the citizens of such societies are to have any chance of making the transition from conflict to democracy, they will need direction. They will need ideals towards which they can aspire, not just in terms of the creation of practicable public policy, but also in terms of the more symbolic goods towards which all successful societies must aspire. As Bhikhu Parekh points out, every democratic society must form some general conception of —4—

Introduction the kind of society it is and would like to be, of what it stands for and of how it differs from others. In short, it must form some general conception of its own identity (Parekh 1999: 66). Without such an identity, a democratic society cannot succeed, since there will be nothing to hold citizens together or to make them feel that they are engaged in a common political enterprise. However, as Parekh also points out, a general identity of this sort is not a property, something we possess, but a relationship, a form of identification that citizens create and recreate among themselves over time (Parekh 1999: 68). It is difficult to see, however, how such an identity, or relationship, could ever emerge or develop in the absence of deliberation. Thus, although some deliberative theorists may be of the view that deliberative democracy is applicable only to societies that are not deeply divided along ethnic lines, this overlooks the fact that all democratic societies need deliberation. It may be harder to achieve in some societies than in others, but this does nothing to alter its fundamental, and, indeed, unavoidable, importance. Admittedly, critics can accept the point that all societies, divided or otherwise, need ideals and aspirations, and still doubt the appropriateness of deliberative democracy, not just with respect to divided societies, but also to democratic societies in general. For all the interest that it has generated, the lingering suspicion is that deliberative democracy is overly idealistic, almost utopian, and consequently offers little purchase on ‘real world’ political issues and concerns (for a concise catalogue of such concerns, see Dryzek 2000: 6–7). For example, according to some critics, it is hard to see how deliberative norms and standards might be operationalised when, for example, drafting a constitution, creating political structures and mechanisms, or in making public policy. These kinds of worries are perhaps understandable. For one thing, since it is hard to see how large groups of people might be able to deliberate directly with one another, the idea that collective decision making should be based on public reasoning and discussion seems to be highly impractical. But for another, it remains far from clear that public reasoning and discussion alone could consistently enable citizens, or, more usually, their representatives, to take political decisions. Even in the most stable of democratic societies, people will have very different experiences and come to value very different things in life. Consequently, what will count as a good reason for one person may not do so for another. This need not mean that one reason is as good as the next, or that all values are on a par, all things considered. But it does help explain why, even with all the best will in the world, people can struggle to find reasons upon which they can all agree. Moreover, if this is true of successful democratic societies, it will be doubly true of divided societies where the polarisation of political life —5—

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies is often extreme and the willingness of people to engage with members of competing ethnic groups is often in short supply. Critics argue, therefore, that deliberative theorists tend to have an overly sanguine view of people’s capacity to decide political questions through public reasoning and discussion – in short, the charge is that they have not done enough to respond to the realities of persistent disagreement and deep division (McCarthy 1998). Divided societies certainly offer plenty of evidence of such disagreement. In cases like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, disagreement has affected almost every level of government, from the formal rules and procedures that structure and constrain the political process to the actual implementation of those rules and the decisions that result. The worries that attach to deliberative democracy do not end there, however, since critics also argue that the deliberative emphasis on reason-giving will tend to disadvantage the inarticulate, or at least those who may not have access to a sophisticated political vocabulary (see, for example, Sanders 1997; Young 2000; Mouffe 2000). Put simply, in a deliberative democracy, those who are good at arguing – or, more accurately, at arguing in the right kind of way, using the right kind of language – will have a much better chance of having their preferences reflected in public policy, irrespective of the views and opinions of those around them. By contrast, those who are not so good at arguing, or whose experiences and values cannot be so easily expressed within the prevailing style of political reasoning, may well be denied an effective voice within the decision-making process. Thus, even if deliberative theorists could provide a compelling response to the problem of persistent disagreement, the question would still remain as to whether or not deliberative democracy would be biased in favour of certain members of society. Among members of a relatively homogenous society, the question of exclusion may not arise; and even where it does, its instances may be easier to detect and redress (Young 1999a: 155). The reality, however, is that very few (if any) societies can claim homogeneity, and so there is always a danger that some people will be excluded because they do not fit the dominant discursive mould. This is obviously true in divided societies. What is more, exclusion of this sort is often the catalyst for inter-ethnic violence. Clearly, there are major worries attaching to deliberative democracy. However, no conclusive judgement can be made one way or the other without first testing the normative claims that deliberative theorists make by applying those claims in particular contexts. My aim in this book is to show that deliberative democracy has crucial, but largely untapped, implications for divided societies. To this end, I offer normative arguments. —6—

Introduction But I also seek to engage with the work of some of the most important comparative scholars working in the field of conflict studies. For example, no serious political analysis of democracy in divided societies can afford to ignore the consociational model of power sharing most readily associated with the name of Arend Lijphart (1969, 1977, 2004) and, correspondingly, the ongoing debate over whether consociation constitutes the most appropriate choice of institution for the management and resolution of ethnic conflict. Alternatives have been offered to the consociational approach, most notably by Donald Horowitz (1985, 1991) and Benjamin Reilly (2001). These alternatives stress, first, the need to provide incentives for moderation and, secondly, the need at some level to transcend ethnicity. I do not suggest that deliberative democracy can circumvent this debate (but see Dryzek 2005). Rather, I suggest ways in which consociational institutions might be appropriately amended so that divided societies aiming to make the transition from conflict to democracy might stand a better chance of succeeding in the longer run. As such, my general strategy is not to aim to contribute towards a new debate surrounding the prospects for deliberative democracy in divided societies, but, rather, to enter into a debate that is ongoing (and, I might add, flourishing) within the comparative politics literature. With this much in mind, I will now sketch the general shape of the argument that I present. What this book will argue As I have already indicated, a democratic system is deliberative when political decisions are arrived at through a process of public reasoning and discussion to which each citizen can freely contribute but is equally willing to listen to, and reflect upon, opposing views. Accordingly, the decisions that result from such a process reflect not simply the prior preferences and opinions of the citizens, but also the considered judgements that they make having reflected on the arguments made on all sides (Miller 2000: 142). This basic definition can, and has been, elaborated in different ways by different democratic theorists. The starting point for my analysis, however, is broader than the concern with deliberative democracy per se. As its title suggests, this book has both normative (deliberative democracy) and empirical (divided societies) dimensions. In Chapter 1, I argue that although normative considerations must stand at a certain critical remove from empirical considerations, that distance must not be so great that the normative fails to inform the empirical. By the same token, I also show how empirical considerations necessarily imply normative questions that call for philosophical argument. More specifically, I draw on the work of —7—

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies John Rawls and Arend Lijphart to show how we might reconcile these two dimensions. While I use the metaphysical Rawls of A Theory of Justice (1971) as an example of a normative theory that necessarily implies empirical questions, I use Lijphart’s Democracy in Plural Societies (1977) as an example of an empirical theory that necessarily implies normative questions. In contrast, I argue that the Rawls of Political Liberalism (1996) can serve as a proposal for how to tread a middle ground between the two. My aim in introducing the work of Rawls and Lijphart is not, however, simply to make a philosophical point about the normative–empirical interface. On the contrary, Rawls’s political liberalism, and, in particular, the account of public reason that it contains, is as central to the normative arguments that follow in subsequent chapters as Lijphart’s consociational democracy is to the institutional analyses that I provide. Of course, normative and empirical considerations do not exist in a vacuum, as it were, but must instead be discussed in relation to some specific political issue or concern. In Chapter 2, I introduce the basic question with which this book is concerned – if, as the received wisdom has, John Stuart Mill (1991 [1861]) is correct to argue that a democracy cannot succeed unless its citizens share a sense of common national identity, then how might such an identity be fostered and sustained in a divided society? Now, before we can answer this question, we obviously need to know the answers to questions concerning its constituent parts: in particular, we need to know (1) what ethnicity is and how it can lead to political conflict, (2) what democracy is and how it can justified and (3) how a specifically deliberative model of democracy might be defined and elaborated. Chapter 2 provides answers to these three questions. I argue that although constructivist accounts of ethnicity are superior to their primordialist rivals, we must be especially careful not to underestimate the durability of ethnic affiliations and commitments. In short, what matters ultimately is how people think about their ethnicity. Following Robert Dahl (1989, 2000), I then provide an account of democracy based on two ‘uniquely democratic’ values – intrinsic equality and personal autonomy – before proceeding to explore both the difficulties and opportunities for applying those values in divided societies. Finally, I argue that intrinsic equality and personal autonomy can be realised in terms of the deliberative requirements of reciprocity and publicity, respectively. Although the account that I offer is primarily procedural, I nevertheless show how these two requirements imply important substantive constraints on the terms of acceptable political discourse. Nothing that I say in this book denies the saliency of ethnicity to political life in divided societies. On the contrary, once ethnicity has become highly —8—

Introduction politicised, we ignore it at our peril. Accordingly, if the central question of this book is how to build a stronger sense of common national identity among the citizens of a divided society, then the central challenge it addresses is how to strike a workable balance between the need to institutionally recognise and accommodate competing ethnic identities and the need to create an overarching civic national identity in which all citizens can share on an equal basis. Following Ju¨rgen Habermas (1996, 1998b), I explore this challenge in Chapter 3 by contrasting three normative models of democracy: liberal, republican and deliberative. I argue that no real-world state can deliver on liberal neutrality; but even if it could, it would fail to account for the kinds of demands that ethnic groups typically make. By contrast, although republicanism does recognise the central role that deliberation plays in creating an overarching civic identity, the way in which republicans frame that identity can only be bought at the cost of denying citizens’ more particular ethnic affiliations. By contrast, I argue that a proceduralist account of deliberative democracy can retain what is good about both liberalism and republicanism, while jettisoning their more unattractive implications. In Chapters 4 and 5, I then consider the deliberative requirements of reciprocity and publicity in greater detail. The requirement of reciprocity holds that, in seeking to justify political proposals, citizens must try to advance reasons that all can freely accept. In divided societies, the only kinds of reasons that might satisfy this requirement are general political principles that are not reducible to the interests of any one ethnic group. Admittedly, those principles may well be in short supply and will in any case be subject to intense interpretative dispute. Nevertheless, to the extent that citizens are willing to appeal to such principles, they will have already gone some considerable way towards showing respect for one another as political equals – not in spite of their ethnic difference but precisely because of them. This respect is a prerequisite of peace and democracy in divided societies, since it enables citizens to create the kinds of ‘shareable goods’ upon which the development of a common national identity depends. More precisely, the appeal to general political principles can lead citizens to soften, if not transform, their particular preferences (and perhaps even in some cases their underlying values) so that ‘composite compromises’ that everyone can find some reason to accept can be constructed. Just as we cannot make sense of the idea of democracy without appealing to both the value of intrinsic equality and the value of personal autonomy, a deliberative model that was founded solely on the requirement of reciprocity would be found wanting. It would be found wanting because, although reciprocity tells us how political decisions should be justified, it does not tell —9—

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies us to whom those justifications are actually owed. In a democracy, justifications for political decisions are, as a matter of basic principle, owed to all of those who are bound by them. However, as I indicated above, the sheer scale of modern mass democracies means that, for the most part, citizens cannot participate directly in the making of political decisions. In response to this predicament, most deliberative democrats have accepted the need for representative government (cf. Dryzek 2000, 2005). However, they have also insisted that the process by which representatives arrive at political decisions should be open and transparent, because otherwise ordinary citizens can have no real way of knowing whether they would have arrived at the same decisions based on the same reasoning. In other words, they can have no real way of knowing whether democratic decisions are legitimate, or whether they simply reflect the interests of dominant individuals and groups. Chapter 5 explores how the requirement of publicity might help to create a stronger sense of common national identity among the citizens of a divided society. In particular, it shows that publicity can have a crucially important role to play in negotiating peace agreements and constitutions. Those agreements are typically conducted under conditions of asymmetry, which, as William Zartman (1995, 2001) argues, is a key reason why they all too often fail. However, following Jon Elster (1995, 1998b), I argue that the civilising force of hypocrisy can have its part to play in levelling the playing field between the parties to a negotiation. Of course, as I acknowledge, secrecy can also have a crucially important role to play, given the kinds tensions and insecurities that often surround the negotiation of a peace agreement. However, as I will argue, if the reasons behind the need for secrecy are not themselves publicly justified, the effects of secrecy may undermine the chances that a peace agreement will be accepted by ordinary citizens following its negotiation. As I indicated above, critics have argued that all the publicity in the world may make no difference to those who are marginalised or excluded by the terms of political discourse. Difference democrats such as Lyn Sanders (1997), Iris Young (2000) and Melissa Williams (2000) have been especially alive to this issue, and have argued that the special place that (some) deliberative democrats have reserved for appeals to general political principles is itself a source of unjust exclusion. There is much to their objection. Indeed, as I will argue in Chapter 6, deliberative democracy must make room for alternative forms of political expression and engagement. To this end, I explore the constructive role that narrative can play in managing ethnic conflict and in pointing towards its eventual resolution. Nevertheless, I conclude that the appeal to general political principles cannot — 10 —

Introduction ultimately be avoided. Since narratives are inevitably particular, they cannot provide a common reference point to which citizens can appeal in order to build composite compromises. They may factor into such compromises in the sense that sensitivity to the ways in which people tell their own story is an important way of creating space within which the identification of general political principles can be identified. However, the fact remains that public policy cannot be based on stories. What is more, narrative may itself be a source of unjust exclusion, since, in the hands of manipulative ethnic elites, it can be used as a means of enforcing internal conformity. Implicit in the difference democrat’s critique of deliberative democracy is an assumption that individuals and groups should be able to shape their own relation to the polity. I share that assumption. Indeed, I view it as a fundamental prerequisite of democracy in general, but especially of democracy in divided societies. In such societies, citizens must eventually come to divide less and share more if they are to build and sustain a stronger sense of common national identity. However, there must be some basis upon which this sharing can take place. In Chapter 7, I argue that, although the idea of civil society is far from straightforward in divided societies, it nevertheless provides a basis upon which citizens can begin to engage with one another on non-ethnic terms, if and when they choose to do so. It can, in principle, allow space for identities and interests that cut across ethnic lines to develop and flourish, while at the same time ensuring that representatives are responsive and accountable to public opinion in all its diversity. Once again, this is an ideal. Moreover, it is an ideal that may stand no chance of being realised unless theorists begin to explore in more detail the relationship between civil associations and power-sharing institutions. I argue that, as they are most typically cast, consociational institutions are not as open and responsive to civil society interests as they might ideally be. A basic assumption underpinning the consociational approach is that if we wish to manage ethnic conflict democratically, then representatives of all the main ethnic groups or segments in society must be included in the ‘grand governing coalition’ (Lijphart 1977). However, when assessed in terms of the requirements of reciprocity and publicity, this assumption fails to leave sufficient space for the articulation of identities and interests that cut across ethnic lines. More specifically, it fails to leave sufficient space for opposition parties to check the behaviour of political elites in ways that reward those who are most willing to build composite compromises. I then argue that a more sophisticated consociationalism can go some way towards meeting these concerns. To this end, I focus on Brendan O’Leary’s (2005b) distinction between complete, concurrent and weak consociations. However, — 11 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies I conclude that consociations can fully succeed in meeting the requirements of reciprocity and publicity only if those who design them are also willing to soften their emphasis on elite bargaining so as to make greater room for the interplay between civil society and elected representatives. This, I argue, is the key to building a brighter future in which all the citizens of a divided society can share.

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Chapter 1

Locating the Discussion

In this book I present a philosophical argument about deliberative democracy and its relevance for the resolution of ethno-political conflict in divided societies. Although my approach is philosophical, I take a broad view of the kinds of considerations that are relevant to normative or evaluative thought. More specifically, I agree with Robert Goodin and Phillip Pettit ‘that questions about what can feasibly be achieved in a certain area are just as central to normative concerns as questions about what is desirable in that area’ (1993: 1). Political philosophy is concerned with the way in which political institutions and practices ideally ought to be arranged, rather than with the way they actually are arranged. For this reason, the arguments that political philosophers make inevitably stand at a certain, if indeterminate, remove from the particular circumstances in which those arguments are to apply. In this book, however, I take it as a guiding assumption that there is little point in advancing normative arguments that are so far removed from empirical realities and constraints that they fail to provide policy makers with any real practical guidance. Accordingly, I aim to show that deliberative democracy provides normative or evaluative standards not just towards which the members of divided societies should aspire, but also towards which they can aspire, even if only in the longer run. Of course, the obvious difficulty is how to strike an appropriate balance between normative concerns and empirical constraints. As Goodin points out, the ‘case for some sort of empirical theory informing policy choices is intuitively obvious. We choose policies hoping to produce certain kinds of results, and we must know how the system is wired in order to know which lever to pull’ (1982: 4). However, as he also points out, the ‘need for some sort of normative theory to guide policy choices is also, in some sense, intuitively obvious. We need to know not only which results follow from which policies but also which results we should prefer and strive to achieve’ (1982: 7). Viewed in this way, engagement with both kinds of questions is unavoidable, because, in — 13 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies important ways, normative and empirical approaches are mutually implicating. This chapter explores how normative and empirical theories might be successfully combined in order to make informed political decisions in divided societies. This is not the only goal of this chapter, however. A second goal is that of introducing two theoretical models that are central to much of what will follow in later chapters. First, I consider the theory of consociational democracy as elaborated by Arend Lijphart (1969, 1977), which is one of the most important approaches to institutional design in divided societies. Although it is primarily empirical, Lijphart’s formulation also contains an important normative dimension. However, as we will see, the relationship between its empirical and normative dimensions is insufficiently theorised. Closer inspection reveals just why that relationship needs to be explicitly addressed and, in the process, helps identify the unavoidable role that normative theory has to play in thinking about democracy in divided societies. Political philosophers do not have things all their own way, however, since there are, or at least can be, real problems attaching to the normative claims that they make. For one thing, normative standards (like equality, autonomy, toleration and so forth) can, and very often do, conflict, which means that philosophers have to engage in the difficult task of explaining why one value, or set of values, should take precedence over some other (Weale 1999: 41). But for another, we are still left with the problem of how to strike an appropriate balance between a concern for empirical realities and the need to step back from those realities in order to gain some philosophical distance from them. In order to explore these two difficulties, I consider one of the most important normative theories to emerge in recent decades, namely John Rawls’s political liberalism (1996). Political liberalism, and especially the account of public reason that it embodies, has had an enormous influence on the development of deliberative democracy. In this chapter, however, my concern is with how Rawls negotiates a path between a concern for independent justification and a concern for political stability. Central to his approach is an ideal of public justification according to which citizens should look to the kinds of political principles and values that we might normally expect to find implicit in the political culture of a democratic society when justifying collective decisions. There are problems attaching to that approach. However, once the approach is interpreted in procedural rather than substantive terms – once we look to the rules by which decisions are justified rather than the actual content of those decisions – I argue that political liberalism offers a convincing way of thinking about the relation between empirical and normative considerations. — 14 —

Locating the Discussion The consociational model As I mentioned above, I will discuss the consociational model at various points throughout this book. That model has much to recommend it, although, when viewed from a deliberative democratic perspective, I will argue that it is found wanting in a number of crucial respects. For now, though, I simply want to introduce the model as an example of an empirical theory, by which I mean a theory that seeks to establish causal relationships between two or more variables in an effort to explain the occurrence of observed political phenomena (see generally, Landman 2003). The model has undergone considerable refinement since it was first introduced (see, for example, O’Leary 2005b). However, for present purposes, it will suffice to focus on its most traditional and extended statement, as found in Lijphart’s Democracy in Plural Societies (1977). In that book, Lijphart claimed that the consociational model derives its significance as an empirical theory from the contribution it makes to the study of political stability in democratic societies. More specifically, he claimed that the model should be understood as an attempt to build onto and refine Gabriel Almond’s (1956) classic typology of Western political systems. In the typology, democratic systems are classified under two broad headings: Anglo-American systems (as exemplified by Great Britain and the United States), and Continental European (the French Third and Fourth Republics, Weimar Germany and post-war Italy). Despite this geographically derived terminology, countries classified under the two headings are not distinguished in terms of physical location, since such a classification would have little to do with the properties of political systems as such (Almond 1956: 392; referenced in Lijphart 1977: 7). Rather, they are distinguished in terms of two independent variables – political culture and social structure – which are in turn grounded in a number of broader theoretical assumptions about the nature of overlapping memberships, cross-cutting cleavages, boundary maintenance between subcultures, and the number of political parties in a democratic system (Lijphart 1969: 208–9, 1977: 6–14). Almond maintained that the two independent variables, along with their underlying theoretical assumptions, could explain why the Anglo-American democracies tended to be stable and why the Continental European democracies tended to be unstable. The trouble as Lijphart saw it, however, was that political conditions in a number of the smaller European democracies could not be explained in this way. In particular, he argued that according ‘to the theory of cross-cutting cleavages, one would expect the Low Countries, Switzerland and Austria, with subcultures divided from — 15 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies each other by mutually reinforcing [political and social] cleavages, to exhibit great immobilism and instability. But they do not’ (1969: 211). Comparing those deviant cases enabled Lijphart to identify a third variable that could, he argued, explain how political stability might be possible in democracies marked by deep social and political divisions: the behaviour of political elites. In short, the evidence suggested that as long as elites from all of the major groups in society were willing and able to cooperate and share political power – as long, that is, as they were able and willing create ‘consociational’ arrangements that could prevent subcultural cleavages from producing explosive political conflicts – they could, in principle, stabilise the political system (Lijphart 1969: 216, 1977: 16 and passim). Consociational democracy, therefore, is an empirical theory that aims to show how stable democratic government can be forged through power sharing between political elites representing competing groups. While Lijphart insisted that there is no single consociational blueprint, he nevertheless claimed that the classic European cases of consociational democracy shared four key institutional features. As already indicated, the first and most important of those institutional features is the governing ‘grand coalition’ (or power-sharing cabinet or executive) in which elites from all the significant groups or ‘segments’ in society directly participate. This executive can take several different forms, such as a grand coalition cabinet in a parliamentary system, a grand council or committee with important advisory functions, or a grand coalition of a president and other top officeholders in a presidential system (although Lijphart continues to claim that presidential systems are not ideal for divided societies since they can result in the predominance of a single leader) (1977: 25, 33, 1982: 175, 2004: 101–3). The second distinguishing feature of a consociational democracy is the ‘mutual’ or ‘minority veto’, which enables groups to protect their most vital interests. As such, the mutual veto qualifies the scope of majority rule by ensuring that important decisions will not be taken without the agreement of all significant groups. The third defining feature is ‘proportionality’, which represents a further deviation from majority rule, although not necessarily from political equality. It forms the basic standard of political representation in government, and can extend to civil service appointments and the allocation of public funds (Lijphart 1977: 38–41). Finally, in a consociational democracy, groups typically enjoy a high degree of group or ‘segmental’ autonomy in dealing with matters that are of exclusive concern to them, such as religion, language or education. Lijphart argues that where groups are geographically concentrated, segmental autonomy can be institutionalised through federal-type structures; but where their members are interspersed, it can take the form of functional autonomy, — 16 —

Locating the Discussion which grants different groups living within the same area the right, for example, to establish and control their own school system (Lijphart 1977: 41–4, 1982: 167). Although the claim has been contested (see, for example, Barry 1975a, 1975b), Lijphart argued that Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland provided empirical support for the theory of consociational democracy. He did not claim, however, that the model is everywhere applicable, or that actual consociational democracies always succeed. For example, although a complex system of consociational arrangements had helped maintain peace among the various Lebanese religious groups and factions for over thirty years, that peace collapsed in 1975 and was succeeded by brutal civil war. Similarly, consociational arrangements failed in Cyprus in 1963, Nigeria in 1966, Malaysia in 1969 and Northern Ireland in 1974 (Lijphart 1977, chapter 5). What these examples suggested was that consociational theory was incomplete – or, more precisely, that the four key institutional characteristics alone could not account for political stability in societies marked by deep social and political divisions. In response, Lijphart argued that the explanatory and predictive power of the model could be increased by adding a set of secondary assumptions (or what he termed ‘favourable conditions’) which he observed at work in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria: a multiple balance of power, the small size of the country involved, overlapping loyalties, groups that are relatively isolated from one another and prior traditions of political accommodation between elites (Lijphart 1977, chapter 3). With these further assumptions on board, Lijphart claimed that the model could now predict, albeit imperfectly, whether actual consociational democracies would be stable. With this brief overview in place, the question that I now want to take up is whether Lijphart and others who favour consociational solutions to problems of division are purely interested in explaining and predicting whether consociational institutions will succeed, for example, in contemporary contexts like Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Macedonia or Lebanon, or whether there is something more at issue here. As we will now see, consociational theory is not just an empirical theory, but also has an important normative dimension attaching to it, albeit one that is not theorised to any great extent. The normative–empirical interface In the concluding chapter of his Democracy in Plural Societies, Lijphart writes: ‘This book’s message to the political leaders of plural [or divided] — 17 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies societies is to encourage them to engage in a form of political engineering: if they wish to establish or strengthen democratic institutions in their countries, they must become consociational engineers’ (1977: 223). Moreover, the book also has a message for political scientists who, in Lijphart’s view, ‘have generally been far too reluctant to make macro-level policy recommendations’. This message is that ‘if we conceive of political development not as any change but as induced change toward an intended goal – such as stable democracy – the need to specify the means whereby this end can be reached is self-evident’ (1977: 223). In other words, political scientists should be involved not simply in the empirical business of describing, explaining and predicting, but should also directly engage in the normative business of prescribing how political systems should be organised and arranged. In this sense, then, consociational democracy can be viewed as having both empirical and normative dimensions. Specifically, it ‘serves not only as an empirical explanation of the political stability of a set of small European democracies but also as a normative example to plural societies elsewhere in the world’ (Lijphart 1977: 47). Be this as it may, the connection between its empirical and normative dimensions is not treated in any detail. Following Goodin (1996), I want to suggest that by taking a closer look at this connection, we can take an important step in explaining just why it is that empirical theories inevitably bring normative considerations into play. As mentioned above, Lijphart acknowledges that there is no single consociational blueprint. The four key elements of a consociational democracy (grand coalition, proportionality, mutual veto and segmental autonomy) can each take a variety of institutional forms (although, again, Lijphart does not think that all forms are equally effective) and may be conjoined with, or supplemented by, a range of other institutional rules and procedures. But in whatever form, Lijphart has recently claimed that we should prescribe consociational democracy because it ‘offers the best fit for most divided societies regardless of their individual circumstances and characteristics’ (2004: 96; but see Horowitz 2002a: 25). Thus, on this account, the link between the normative and empirical dimensions of consociational democracy is established in terms of the criterion of ‘best fit’: we should prescribe consociational democracy because it fits best with real world conditions and, by corollary, has a better chance of securing democratic stability than any of its potential rivals (Lijphart 2004: 97–9). Consociational democracy, of course, is not without its critics (see, for example, Barry 1975a, b; Horowitz 1985, 1991). Indeed, as I will argue in Chapter 7, the basic consociational model needs to be amended if it is not to run a fairly serious risk of inhibiting democratic deliberation, not — 18 —

Locating the Discussion just at the governmental level, but also across the institutions of civil society located in the broader public sphere. Assuming for the moment, however, that it really does provide the best fit for divided societies that are aiming to build stable democratic institutions, what follows is this. Given that consociational democracy is characterised in the first instance by cooperation between political elites, it is reasonable to assume that when Lijphart claims that his prescriptions fit best with conditions in most divided societies, he means (whatever else he may mean) that they fit best with the intentions of elites who are willing to try to share power with one another (cf. Lijphart 1977: 54). It would, after all, be difficult to imagine how an institution could bring about a desired political outcome, such as political stability, other than through the actions of those willing to work within it (Hall and Taylor 1996: 939). Yet even if we were to allow that consociational institutions fit best with the intentions of political elites who are aiming to turn a democracy with a divided political culture and social structure into a stable democracy, the idea of ‘best fit’ is itself philosophically questionable. ‘It is’, as Goodin points out, ‘a familiar point in moral philosophy that any given individual can have both internal and external reasons for action, and that those two sets of reasons for action might well point in very different directions’ (1996: 37). As these are normally defined, internal reasons have to do with our own particular intentions, along with the values that underpin them; by contrast, external reasons have to do with those larger standards of value by which we assess our more particular intentions and values. For instance, although I would like to drive my car well above the legal speed limit, I know that it is extremely dangerous to do so. Hence, my respect for others (an external reason) comes to outweigh my own personal preference (an internal reason), and so I do not drive above the limit. Now, according to Goodin, something similar holds true in the case of institutional design. As he argues, just because a set of institutional prescriptions fits best with people’s intentions does not mean that those prescriptions will pass muster when held up against larger, external standards of evaluation. ‘There can’, after all, ‘be good reasons for seeking institutions that fit ill, not well, with the rest of their environment’ (Goodin 1996: 38). And so, although Lijphart may be empirically correct when he says that consociationalism fits best with conditions in divided societies, this alone is not enough. Take, for example, the idea of segmental autonomy as prescribed by consociational theory. Rather than seeking to weaken political and social cleavages by encouraging greater integration across different groups, consociational democracy seeks, at least initially, to make divided societies more — 19 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies thoroughly divided (Lijphart 1977: 42). The basic idea is that we start by keeping groups as far apart as possible, with just enough sharing at the central institutional level to keep the state intact. Then, over time, as the conflict dies down and elites get used to working with one another, it may be possible to start to think about alternative social arrangements, perhaps even opting for greater integration. From one perspective, this makes good sense: we start from the reality of division, from what fits best with people’s real world experiences, and build our democracy accordingly. But from another perspective, there are questionable normative assumptions at play here. As critics argue, the consociational approach assumes that separation is a better principle of political organisation than integration, that group identity should take precedence over internal diversity, that stability is more valuable than other democratic values like personal autonomy, that individual freedom can sometimes be trumped by a desire to establish equality between conflicting groups and so forth (see generally, O’Flynn and Russell 2005). The point here is not to decide which of these perspectives is correct. Rather, the point is to show that the consociational approach relies on normative assumptions that need to be independently justified. Lijphart himself does not offer an extended philosophical justification for the values that underpin his prescriptions. His argument is almost entirely empirical. However, as we have now seen, empirical approaches inevitably bring normative values into play, even if those values are never spelt out explicitly or argued for directly. But since those values can and very often do conflict – since it is sometimes necessary to make tough trade-offs between, for example, a concern for equality and a concern for stability – arguments about which values we will prioritise and why are never very far away. I will return to the merits and drawbacks of the consociational approach at various points throughout this book (especially in Chapter 7). For present purposes, however, the crucial point to stress is that, in thinking about questions of institutional design, the appeal must inevitably be ‘to some larger moral code’, as Goodin puts it. Consociational prescriptions may be ‘internally consistent and externally harmonious’ with the intentions of political elites in divided societies. ‘But that is still an essentially internalist definition of optimal design which must eventually give way to larger external critiques, rooted in normative principles that are at the end of the day themselves independently justifiable’ (Goodin 1996: 39). The purpose of this book is to provide an independently justifiable account of deliberative democratic standards and underlying values, an account that can inform the process of institutional choice in divided societies. Before beginning this case for deliberative democracy, however, there is a further ground-clearing — 20 —

Locating the Discussion matter that needs to be addressed, one which seeks to deepen our understanding of the complex relation between arguments in political philosophy and the realities to which they are intended to apply. Empirical prescriptions call for philosophical justification. But, by the same token, philosophical arguments require attention to empirical constraints. Reconciling these two imperatives is no easy task. Two problems with normative standards I have suggested that political philosophy has a crucial role to play in divided societies in terms of clarifying the kinds of normative standards and values that should inform our thinking about political concerns. Over the course of this book, I will present a specifically deliberative democratic argument of this sort. For now, though, it is important to consider an all too familiar question: if political philosophy is so salient, then why is it habitually greeted with scepticism (or, in some instances, derision) by scholars of a more empirically minded bent? There are many reasons why normative values often prove so problematic. However, in the context of a book on deliberative democracy and divided societies, two reasons stand out as being of particular importance. First, as Albert Weale points out, political philosophers have appealed to a large number of values in their arguments for democracy, deliberative or otherwise. Yet while this might lead one to think that the case for democracy is all the more powerful by virtue of the range of different values that can be advanced in support of it, the arguments in which those values appear can often lead in very different directions, ‘invoking contradictory conceptions of society, citizenship or other features of political life’ (Weale 1999: 41). This clash is most obvious between large-scale theories of democracy, such as liberalism, republicanism or socialism. But even within a single democratic outlook, there is plenty of room for family disputes about the relative weight that should be accorded to different values. For example, liberal democrats typically stress the values of freedom and equality. However, whereas leftliberals like John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin tend to stress the need for redistributive policies that secure greater equality, right-liberals like Robert Nozick and David Gauthier argue that state intervention is inimical to individual freedom. Deliberative democracy is just as susceptible to this kind of ‘in-house’ fighting as any other model of democracy. Deliberative theorists disagree about the proper role of civil society, whether deliberative procedures should be constrained by substantive principles, about the reach of deliberative norms and values and so forth (see generally, Gutmann and Thompson 2004, chapter 1). — 21 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies In a sense, of course, this should hardly come as a surprise. Political philosophers have always argued about the meaning and relative importance of different democratic values, and are likely to continue doing so for as long as democracy retains any meaningful currency in the world. Such disagreements can, and presumably do, give the impression that political philosophy is a luxury in which only those who already live in peaceful, stable democratic societies can afford to indulge. However, for politicians and practitioners involved in the actual, ‘real world’ business of trying to create and sustain power-sharing institutions, it can easily seem unnecessary, or even undesirable. Values are often hard to define and are always open to interpretative challenge. What is more, they cannot simply be decided in the abstract and then superimposed upon a people from the outside. Yet while this might lead us to conclude that it is better, and even wiser, to proceed pragmatically and incrementally, we have already seen that values are inevitably present from the outset (see also Goodin 1982: 3–4, chapter 2). However hard they might be to identify and decide, democratic values will inevitably underpin the process of institutional choice, and policy formation more generally, in divided societies. Yet while philosophers do indeed disagree with one another about the meaning and relative importance of those values, Ronald Dworkin is surely right to argue that anyone who expects them to stop disagreeing misunderstands philosophy’s point. Given that democracy has been the object of intense philosophical study since the early Greeks, it is reasonable to assume that politicians and practitioners stand to profit by consulting even a small part of the vast body of literature that political philosophers have produced. Admittedly, politicians cannot cite any philosophical text as unchallengeable, as they might, perhaps, cite an uncontroversial economic study or a piece of widely respected historical or ethnographic research. But that, as Dworkin remarks, seems beside the point. Philosophers disagree, for example, about whether democracy means only majority rule or whether it also requires that the rights of minorities be protected. But since politicians must take sides on this issue too, especially in divided societies where debates over the nature and scope of group rights are typically of cardinal importance, they must surely stand to benefit from some familiarity with the underlying philosophical arguments on both sides (Dworkin 2000). It is one thing, of course, to say that politicians could benefit from a more rounded understanding of the underlying values that are at play; it is an another matter entirely to show how this might work in practice. If democratic values really are to provide standards by which we might make informed decisions about matters of institutional choice and public policy — 22 —

Locating the Discussion more generally, then it is clear that there must be some distance between those standards and the realities to which they will apply. The trouble is, however, that if the distance is too great, democratic values may fail to provide any practical guidance; but if the distance is too small, they may fail to provide evaluative standards that are, in themselves, externally justifiable. Accordingly, a second key reason why normative standards in general, and democratic values in particular, often prove so problematic is that it can be hard to strike an appropriate balance between a concern for empirical realities, and the need to step back from those realities in order to gain some critical distance from them. Briefly, and admittedly somewhat artificially, three contrasting philosophical perspectives illustrate what is at issue here. At one end of the spectrum, philosophers like John Dunn (1990: 193–6) have argued that our thinking about democratic values should always be constrained by a clear understanding of what is institutionally feasible, given the world as we currently find it. Underlying this view is the thought that the world throws up a particular kind of problem that the political philosopher is especially good at solving: while, for example, constitutional engineers can tell which institutional prescriptions will produce which results, political philosophers come into their own in helping us to decide which of those results we should prefer and why we ought to strive to achieve them. And yet, by restricting our thinking about democratic values so that it amounts to no more than an ‘internal’ evaluation of, or adjudication between, competing institutional alternatives, we effectively deny ourselves the possibility of offering an ‘external’ critique of the assumptions upon which those alternatives are based (Goodin 1982: 4, 7, 1996: 37–9). In short, the trouble with this first approach is that it assumes that the world can be unproblematically described exactly as it is. It assumes, that is, that different institutional options can be identified simply as an empirical matter before then deciding which of those options we should prefer as a normative or evaluative matter. At the other end of the spectrum, philosophers like Andrew Mason (2004) argue that the analysis of democratic values can meaningfully proceed independently of considerations of feasibility or institutional implementation. On this view, our thinking about democratic values need be delimited by no more than ‘minimal empirical constraints’, not just because our understanding of the world as we currently find it is bound to be limited and contested, but, moreover, because disagreements about empirical realities mean that ‘there will be no shared basis from which to judge what is feasible’ (Mason 2004: 254). In the present context, ongoing disagreements about the meaning of ethnicity, territory, sovereignty or — 23 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies statehood provide obvious examples of what is at issue here, leading as they do to competing views about the possibilities for, and limits of, democracy in divided societies. While it may be true that empirical considerations are often contested, the idea that questions of institutional feasibility can be simply ‘bracketed’ when debating democratic values is highly problematic. Abstract analyses can play an important role in clarifying the meaning of political concepts and values, and in helping to provide us with a more sophisticated vocabulary. Since concepts and values provide the basic building blocks of philosophical theories (and, as already remarked, of empirical theories as well), they can also play an important role in stimulating new theories or in raising doubts about old ones. Yet without meaning to downplay the importance of those roles, the worry is that abstract analyses provide no more than indirect help in solving actual political dilemmas. Abstract analyses may be very helpful in terms of circumscribing democratic values and normative standards more generally; but what they cannot do is tell us how to trade off one political consideration for another. For instance, on any reckoning, a democratic system must be as inclusive as possible. But how extreme, we might ask, can people be in their views, and possibly even in their actions, before we decide that inclusion must be limited or curtailed in the interests of other important values like moderation and stability? At what, if any, point do extremists become so extreme that they must be excluded from the decision-making process? Abstract analyses seemingly cannot say, and hence cannot offer any real practical guidance (Goodin 1982: 8–12). The upshot, therefore, is that if political philosophers are to make a meaningful contribution to the study of democracy in divided societies, they must tread a careful path between the two ends of the spectrum that I have just described. Although this is a difficult challenge, I will now draw on the work John Rawls in order to show how it can be met. My strategy is as follows. I cast Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971) as an example of a normative theory that necessarily implies empirical questions (just as in earlier sections of this chapter Lijphart’s consociational democracy served as an example of an empirical theory that implies normative questions). By contrast, I show that Rawls’s Political Liberalism (1996) can serve as a proposal for how to strike an appropriate balance between normative and empirical considerations in societies marked by diversity and division. Treading the middle ground According to Michael Sandel, A Theory of Justice is premised on a Kantian conception of the self, according to which our standing as moral beings is — 24 —

Locating the Discussion prior to the ends that we have chosen for ourselves. As such, we are free to step back from and question each and every value that we hold, and to reject those values that we no longer find convincing. However, as Sandel argued, it is implausible to think that people could engage in this level of critical reflection without doing tremendous damage to their own identity and sense of moral worth. As he put it, ‘we cannot regard ourselves as independent in this way without great cost to those loyalties and convictions whose moral force consists partly in the fact that living by them is inseparable from understanding ourselves as the particular persons we are – as members of this family or community or nation or people, as bearers of this history, as sons and daughters of that revolution, as citizens of this republic’ (Sandel 1982: 179; see also Taylor 1985b, 1989). Although Rawls signals that he never held the view of the self that Sandel attributed to him, he nevertheless came to accept that there were real problems with the way in which the argument of A Theory of Justice was presented. More specifically, he concluded that since ‘justice as fairness’ was presented as a moral or metaphysical argument, it could not be universally shared in a world marked by the ‘fact of reasonable pluralism’ – the fact that under free democratic institutions, people will inevitably arrive at different and sometimes conflicting conclusions about the good life for human beings (1996: 36). Rawls saw this problem as being especially acute with respect to religious believers who do not think of themselves as free to question their participation in religious practices. Although Rawls does not say so explicitly, a similar problem also extends to the members of divided societies, even if only for more contingent reasons. Those members typically have good reason to treat their values as verging on the inviolable. For when people’s beliefs and identities are under threat, the tendency is for them to hold all the more strongly to their values – not out of some irrational or unenlightened impulse, but out of the very real human need to hold on to what is familiar for the sake of the security that it affords. Connecting up, then, with the more general theme of this chapter, what we might therefore say is that the sort of abstract, metaphysical theorising found in A Theory of Justice fails to provide much in the way of practical guidance under conditions of social pluralism and division. By contrast, the normative viewpoint presented in Political Liberalism (and in the works that were to follow) does take empirical constraints extremely seriously. Indeed, what drove Rawls to argue for a specifically political approach was the problem of securing stability between justice of fairness and the diverse ‘comprehensive doctrines’ held by the members of modern pluralistic society. According to that political approach, we need not take into account each and every historically contingent reason as to why a particular — 25 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies conception of justice might fail to receive widespread support. However, our thinking about justice must nevertheless be constrained by ‘conditions allowed by the laws and tendencies of the social world’, including the fact of reasonable pluralism and the social and political divisions it inevitably brings (Rawls 2001: 4). Central to Rawls’s attempt to strike an appropriate balance between these two imperatives is his claim that justice as fairness need not rely on any one particular comprehensive doctrine (including a Kantian view of the self), but can instead be understood in political terms alone. At their most succinct, three distinguishing features of a political conception of justice are: that it is framed to apply solely to the basic structure of society, its main political, social, and economic institutions as a unified scheme of social cooperation; that it is presented independently of any wider comprehensive religious or philosophical doctrine; and that it is elaborated in terms of fundamental ideas viewed as implicit in the public political culture of a democratic society. (Rawls 1996: 223) The first feature of a political conception relates to the scope and subject of a political conception of justice. Such a conception is said to extend to the basic structure of society, which includes all the major political, social and economic institutions of a democratic society. That characterisation raises interesting questions about the proper relationship between government and civil society (an issue that I return to in Chapter 7). However, in the present context, it is the second and third features that are of most interest, since they suggest a number of interesting ways in which we might think about balancing a concern for independent normative justification with a sensitivity to empirical realities and constraints. To see what is at issue here, we need to consider what Rawls means when he says that a political conception is best presented in two stages. (Rawls 1996: 140–1) In the first stage, a political conception is worked out as a ‘freestanding’ view. As such, it does not depend for its justification on any one particular comprehensive doctrine, but is instead expressed in terms of the kinds of principles and values that we might normally expect to find present within the political culture and institutions of a democratic society – political equality, the rule of law, judicial independence, individual freedom and so forth. Those principles and values can be interpreted and arranged in an indeterminate number of ways, and hence can give rise to competing political conceptions of justice (and hence, we might add, to alternative institutional prescriptions and arrangements). Nevertheless, in so far as they permeate the political culture of a democratic society, including its — 26 —

Locating the Discussion institutions, practices and traditions of interpretation, Rawls contends that they will be ‘familiar and intelligible to the educated common sense of citizens generally’ (1996: 14). Now, it is important to stress that when Rawls claims that the choice of an appropriate conception of justice should be justified by an appeal to principles and values implicit in the political culture of a democratic society, he is not claiming that philosophers should become sociologists. In other words, the case for a specifically political reading of justice as fairness is not grounded in the empirical fact that the members of this or that democratic society just happen to share this or that set of principles and values. Instead, it is grounded in a normative account of how collective decisions should be justified in a world in which people will inevitably adhere to different visions of what it is that makes a life valuable or worthwhile (cf. Habermas 1996, chapter 3). The argument that Rawls presents is both rich and complex. Among other things, it involves the application of a methodological approach that he calls ‘political constructivism’ (1996, lecture 3). For present purposes, however, what is crucial is his attempt to uncover, as he puts it, ‘a public basis of justification on questions of political justice given the fact of reasonable pluralism’ (1996: 100). Arguably, it is this basic idea that, above all others, has drawn deliberative democrats to his work – the idea that it is possible to identify shared standards of justification to which democratic citizens can appeal when debating matters of collective choice, but that cannot be reduced to any one comprehensive doctrine. Since those standards are implicit in the idea of democracy itself (however they are realised in particular democratic contexts) they can, in this sense, be interpreted as ‘external’ reasons for political action. Of course, this still leaves us wondering how the principles and values that Rawls extols in the first stage relate to the question of political stability. As presented in A Theory of Justice, justice as fairness was found wanting because it stood at too great a remove from the reality of many people’s lives. The question Rawls therefore addresses at the second stage is whether citizens really could unite in affirming the same political conception, despite the fact that they will be otherwise profoundly divided along moral, philosophical or religious lines. Otherwise put, the question he addresses in the second stage is whether the normative independence gained in the first stage really can provide practical guidance under conditions of deep diversity and division. Rawls takes two main approaches to this question. First, he argues that the kinds of principles and values that justify a political conception are so great that they will normally outweigh our more particular values and commitments. Indeed, he goes so far as to argue that anyone who disagrees — 27 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies with this judgement about their priority should be classed as unreasonable (1996: 61). On one level, this claim is far from convincing. When it comes to deeply divisive issues like abortion, it is hard to see why people who cannot give priority to political over comprehensive values should be so described (but see Rawls 1996: lv–i n31, 243–4 n32, 1999: 667). Those people may be perfectly good democrats in all other respects. (Within each of us, after all, there may well be some value that is so fundamental to our sense of being that it can never be voluntarily transgressed.) What is more, there is also the worry that a political values approach may be unfairly biased towards one position rather than another: those who support a pro-choice position will have a much better chance of justifying their claims by appeal to political values (such as individual freedom or equality of opportunity or freedom of conscience) than those who do not support such a view. In this sense, a political values approach seemingly implies that the pro-choice position is the correct position (cf. Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 107–8). Arguably, matters are even worse for Rawls when it comes to divided societies of the sort with which I am concerned in this book. One obvious problem is that the kinds of political values that Rawls has in mind may not be widely shared; but even where they are shared, they may nevertheless give rise to bitter interpretative disputes. Consequently, the idea that those principles could provide common points of reference to which citizens could appeal when debating matters of collective choice may appear overly optimistic. This, it should again be stressed, need not amount to the same thing as saying that those who disagree on the correct interpretation of particular political values are any the less committed to resolving their differences democratically (see Horton 2003: 26). What it does suggest, however, is that a political values approach may fail to offer sufficient practical guidance. On another level, however, it is possible to offer a much more sympathetic reading. As T. M. Scanlon remarks, Rawls ‘has always stressed the difference between a just society, whose institutions can be justified with reference to a standard that all citizens can accept, and a society whose institutions some people have reason to accept only because they are forced to do so’ (2003: 160–1; cf. Mulhall and Swift 1996: 182–3). It is this concern for public justifiability that leads Rawls to focus his attention on the values implicit in the common political culture of a democratic society, given the fact of reasonable pluralism. Yet although there are certainly problems attaching to that account, a willingness to try to justify policy ‘with reference to a standard that all citizens can accept’ is nevertheless one key way in which citizens can show respect for one another as political equals. In this sense, the process of appealing to political values, as opposed — 28 —

Locating the Discussion to their substantive content, has moral significance in its own right, independently of its outcome. People may not end up agreeing. But in encouraging citizens to show respect for one another, a political values approach guides citizens towards the creation of a political context in which mutual recognition is the norm and where the reasons for decisions are made public (see Larmore 2003a: 374). Viewed in this way, the very process of providing commonly accessible reasons when seeking to justify political decisions acts as a crucial link between the normative and empirical dimensions of Political Liberalism. A second way in which Rawls seeks to account for the stability of a political conception is by arguing that, although a political conception is independently justified, it can nevertheless gain the support of an overlapping consensus of comprehensive doctrines in a society regulated by it. As he puts it: All those who affirm the political conception start from within their own comprehensive view and draw on the religious, philosophical, and moral grounds it provides. The fact that people affirm the same political conception on those grounds does not make their affirming it any less religious, philosophical, or moral, as the case may be, since the grounds sincerely held determine the nature of their affirmation. (1996: 147) Accordingly, while a Kantian can affirm a political conception for reasons of personal autonomy, a Christian believer can affirm it because it is in keeping with God’s commands, whereas a secularist can affirm it because it caters for the well-being of humankind in the here and now, and so forth. Moreover, there is also the possibility that, rather than affirming the political conception, a comprehensive doctrine may remain silent on the relevant issue; in this sense, the political conception can be compatible with the comprehensive doctrine simply by occupying a gap left by the doctrine. Naturally, it would be naive to conclude from these considerations that, since a political conception is in principle compatible with a range of different moral outlooks, it must inevitably succeed. There are, again, an indeterminate number of possible political conceptions, which will be more or less appropriate to the case at hand. Nevertheless, in so far as a political conception can be affirmed from within, or rendered compatible with, a plurality of different moral, religious or philosophical doctrines, there is reason to think it will be stable. Once again, however, matters are not straightforward. Although a political conception might well be compatible with a range of comprehensive views, it is implausible to think that people will always find the fit exact — 29 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies (cf. Sandel 1994). As in the abortion example above, aspects of a political view may conflict with aspects of an otherwise reasonable comprehensive view. Yet according to Samuel Freeman, there is a general assumption here that, over time, a political conception that does take root ‘will lead all reasonable persons holding reasonable comprehensive views to accommodate their own comprehensive accounts of justice and morality to the public view’ (2003: 37; but see Sandel 1994). In other words, the assumption is that, although the fit between our personal view of the world and the view to which we ascribe as citizens may not be exact, the experience of living under an agreed political conception will transform our more particular values and commitments in ways that bring them increasingly into line with the values that we exhibit as good citizens. Now, to the extent that a political conception can inform the shape of democratic institutions, and can influence the behaviour of those who operate within them, there is reason to think that Freeman is correct. However, there is a real danger here. For one thing, there is a danger of collapsing the gap between the normative and empirical dimensions of political analysis (we cannot all be good republicans, believing that polis life and the good life are one and the same – the fact of reasonable pluralism says so). But for another, we must wonder about the desirability of such an approach. I take it that the basic point of Rawls’s approach is to identify a basis of public justification – we should appeal to political principles and values that we think other reasonable people might be able to share. Yet it is surely unrealistic to expect that people would sign up to such a process, knowing that their most fundamental commitments may be altered in the process. In divided societies, such a claim would almost inevitably be interpreted as a covert effort at domination or assimilation. Ultimately, it should be up to people themselves to decide how to reconcile their political and non-political commitments, for this is what it means to treat people with the kind of respect that is due to them as political equals. For many of us, that fit may never be exact, but this may have to be the price that we have to pay to live in a democratic society (but see James 2004: 53–8). In summary, then, I have argued that the normative and empirical dimensions of political analysis are mutually implicating. In order to make this case, I have introduced the work of Rawls and Lijphart, both as background to much of what I will discuss in the rest of this book, and as a means of exploring what I have termed the normative–empirical interface. Rawls is not someone who is willing to compromise the normative for the empirical. But he is someone who thinks that the normative should address the empirical. For him, ‘the fact of reasonable pluralism’ is not an objectionable or regrettable fact, but it is still a fact, and a fact that makes a — 30 —

Locating the Discussion difference. With Rawls, I share the view that political philosophers must take empirical considerations into account when making normative prescriptions. I also agree that we should not condemn the allegiances that give rise to social and political division, but should instead think creatively about how those divisions might be most appropriately redressed. By the same token, we have also seen that Lijphart’s consociational approach implies normative questions, although, as I have argued, that normative dimension has not been adequately explored. Lijphart may well be right to argue that consociations are the only means of managing conflict in divided societies – that they fit best with the conditions that normally obtain in such societies. However, larger normative questions are inevitably implied when one chooses to privilege one set of institutional prescriptions over another, which is why empirical, pragmatic institutional engineering ultimately needs philosophical grounding to reconcile inevitable conflicts between values. With this conceptual overview in mind, I now want to explain what exactly I mean by the terms division, democracy and deliberation.

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Chapter 2

Division, Democracy and Deliberation

Now that we have identified the basic conceptual terrain within which this book is located, it is time to turn our attention to the central issue with which it is concerned. According to John Stuart Mill, a democracy cannot succeed unless its citizens share a common national identity. This chapter begins by highlighting two main reasons why this is so – in the absence of a common national identity, citizens (1) will not see themselves as bound by a single political authority or (2) be motivated to do their part in carrying the burdens of self-government. I argue, however, that although Mill’s basic claim has troubling implications for divided societies aiming to make the transition from conflict to democracy, a more complete assessment of this issue needs to distinguish between two main forms that national identity can take – civic and ethnic. In some divided societies, the difficulty is not so much that citizens do not share a sufficiently strong sense of common nationality, but that they have not been able to balance the need to recognise competing ethnic identities with the need to create an overarching civic allegiance to the state. Although ethnicity is an enormously complex phenomenon, two major approaches to its study predominate: primordialism, which stresses ideas of kinship and descent, and constructivism, which stresses context and fluidity. Ontologically, constructivism is the more convincing view. In a world marked by increasing social diversity, constructivism also has the more normatively attractive consequences. However, as far as understanding the sources of ethnic conflict is concerned, what ultimately matters is how people perceive their identity. If the members of ethnic groups think of their identity along primordialist lines, then this is the reality with which political philosophers and institutional designers will have to deal. I then turn to the case for democracy in general and deliberative democracy in particular. Following Dahl, I maintain that any compelling defence of democracy will fall back on the values of intrinsic equality and personal autonomy. Although those values are not easy to apply in divided — 32 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation societies, they can be formulated in a way that ensures political equality not just between conflicting ethnic groups, but also between citizens generally. Against this background, I offer an extended definition of deliberative democracy that elaborates those values in terms of two key normative requirements, namely reciprocity and publicity. Although I understand those requirements in primarily procedural terms, I argue that that any convincing deliberative view must also make room for substantive constraints on democratic decision making. The basic problem Some divided societies survive and prosper, with shared democratic institutions and agreed structures for the delivery of public services. Others fall apart – some slowly and in relative peace, with increasing separation in their structures for government and for the provision of public services, some as a result of escalating conflict with massive suffering and large numbers of refugees (Hadden and Craig 2000: 3). So what is it that makes the difference? Why is it that democracy succeeds in some contexts, whereas in others it fails to take root and flourish? In his Considerations on Representative Government, John Stuart Mill provided the following answer to this difficult question: Where the sentiment of nationality exists in any force, there is a prima facie case for uniting all the members of the nationality under the same government, and a government to themselves apart. This is merely saying that the question of government ought to be decided by the governed. One hardly knows what any division of the human race should be free to do, if not to determine, with which of the various collective bodies of human beings they choose to associate themselves. But, when a people are ripe for free institutions, there is a still more vital consideration. Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. (Mill 1991 [1861]: 428) Mill clearly assumed that a common national identity is necessary for democracy to succeed and, by corollary, that democratic government is only possible within the context of the nation-state (see also Barry 1983). In one sense, this assumption is clearly false. As already indicated, there are many contemporary examples of successful democratic states containing — 33 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies more than one nation or national community. But in another sense, Mill’s basic point is as relevant now as it was in his own time. What Mill wants us to see is that democracy presupposes the very thing that the citizens of a divided society lack in sufficient force, namely a sense of common national identity or sense of common political purpose. Mill’s reflections suggest at least two key reasons why a sense of common national identity is necessary for democracy to succeed over time. In a democracy, ‘the question of government ought to be decided by the governed’ because the authority to exercise political power resides ultimately in the people, and in the people equally. But since this presupposes that the people or demos constitutes a coherent political unit (Dahl 1989: 207), it must be obvious why democracy sometimes proves so difficult in divided societies. Where the demos is divided, so, too, is the locus of political authority. Again, this is not to suggest that division per se is inimical to democracy. As cases like Switzerland, Canada and even Lebanon arguably demonstrate, the mere fact that groups and communities mobilise politically around such things as language, culture, or religion need not mean that they cannot share a sense of political society at some level. But if groups cannot see themselves as forming a political society at any level, then democracy will indeed be unworkable. It will be unworkable because, where the locus of authority is divided, the democratic institutions that are intended to embody that authority will be correspondingly undermined. A second reason why democracy requires a common national identity among citizens is suggested by Mill’s declaration that, ‘One hardly knows what any division of the human race should be free to do, if not to determine, with which of the various collective bodies of human beings they choose to associate themselves’. Underlying this comment is the idealised democratic notion of a group of people coming together freely in order to govern themselves by decisions of their own making. They come together because they realise that they have aims and goals that they cannot attain by themselves but that they may attain by cooperating with others who have similar goals (Dahl 2000: 35). However, what matters to them in the first instance is not so much the specific decisions that they make, although those certainly matter, but that they all have an equal opportunity to participate in their making. Because their society is a voluntary society, political equality is essential so that coercion, which almost inevitably results where inequalities exist, will be minimised. Despite this reasoning, however, the voluntary character of democracy brings difficult problems of its own, especially in the case of divided societies. All political societies place some demands, obligations or duties on their citizens, such as having to vote, pay their taxes honestly, serve on juries or — 34 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation in the armed forces, combined with a more general willingness to reciprocate benefits and burdens when the need arises (Barry 1983: 141–2). Whereas an absolute monarch or an entrenched aristocracy could enforce those demands by coercion, a modern democracy must find some other source of motivation for compliance. According to thinkers as different as Mill and Rousseau, this desideratum can only be satisfied if citizens are strongly committed to one another by means of a common political allegiance (Taylor 1998: 144). From an empirical perspective, we might naturally want to question just how strong this sense of mutual commitment need actually be, or what form it need actually take, in order that democracy might succeed. It is reasonable to assume, for example, that the level of commitment presupposed by viable federal states will be qualitatively different to that presupposed by successful union or unitary states. Once again, however, the basic point here is an extremely important one: if, at some level, the citizens of a democratic society cannot think of themselves as engaged in a common political enterprise – if, in Mill’s terms, they cannot at any level see themselves as sharing a common national identity – they will not be motivated to comply with the inevitable demands that come with living in a voluntary, self-governing society. Put more simply, they will not be motivated to make their democracy work. One possible solution is to render division complete through partition which, in theory, leads to the creation of more homogenous and harmonious political societies. As the breakup of the Czechoslovak federation on reasonably amicable terms shows, partition can provide a more secure platform for democracy if the contending groups and communities live in distinct geographical territories, and if those territories do not themselves contain other significant minorities (Sisk 1996: 28–9). The problem is, however, that these conditions are rarely met in practice. As a host of other cases around the world all too graphically illustrate – including the partitions of Ireland, the Indian subcontinent, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union – partition often ends up creating as many problems as it was originally meant to solve. For instance, partition raises worries about the plight of those who find themselves on the wrong side of new borders; it raises the spectre of mass population transfers which, experience suggests, are highly vulnerable to massacre; and it runs the risk of transforming divisions within a state into divisions between states (Horowitz 1985: 588–92; McGarry and O’Leary 1993: 11–16). In short, the problem with partition is that, far from producing homogeneous political societies, it all too often results in nothing more than an insidious reordering of division and a further continuation of the struggle over political power (Horowitz 1985: 590). — 35 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Given these concerns, I will focus only on divided societies whose citizens have accepted that they will continue living together, and who have agreed, in principle, that political power should be shared between them. More specifically, the concern here is not with divided societies per se, but with divided societies whose members are seeking to make the transition to democracy, but who are struggling to deal with the challenges that such a transition brings. Accordingly, the core problem that this book addresses does not concern the proper boundaries of the political unit as such, but the difficulty of creating a stronger sense of common national identity within those boundaries. For the most part, democratic theorists have had little to say about this problem, other than to express their pessimistic assessment of the view that democracy itself might have an important role to play (see, for example, Dahl 1989, chapter 14; but see Saward 1998, chapter 7). They worry that if democracy presupposes a people who already see themselves as a coherent democratic unit – Mill’s point – then it is hard to see how it might also help create that unit without begging the question in some fundamental sense. And yet, although this pessimism is perhaps understandable in the light of so much recent history, it is an unhelpful way of thinking about what creating a stronger national identity might actually involve with respect to at least some of the world’s divided societies. While it may be true that all divided societies lack a strong sense of common national identity, it is not true that all of them lack that sense entirely. Sometimes, the citizens of a divided society may share no more than a tentative sense of political allegiance to the state. The reasons for this allegiance can vary, but may include the existence of a common external threat, the recognition that conflict has led to widespread economic hardship, the mutual desire to avoid further suffering and bloodshed, international mediation or third-party intervention (Zartman 2001; Stedman et al. 2002; Darby and McGinty 2003). But whatever the reason behind their shared allegiance, the crucial point is that citizens may be willing to develop the sense of common national identity that it brings into something stronger. A central goal of this book is to show that deliberative democracy can aid this process of development and consolidation. More specifically, I will argue that deliberative democracy provides normative standards that, if appropriately institutionalised, can lead to a stronger sense of common national identity among citizens. First, though, it is necessary to say something more about the basic raw materials with which we will have to operate – the basic empirical parameters and the constraints they place on normative aspirations. In the next section, I want to say a little more about the ‘divided’ in divided societies, and hence to explain the nature of — 36 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation the divisions with which we will be concerned. I will then lay out what I mean by democracy and provide an account of two key values that I contend explain its importance as a system of government. In the final section, I give a deliberative ‘twist’ to those values. Ethno-national conflict As we saw above, Mill claimed that the presence of more than one nation or national community within the state is a recipe for conflict and division. In fact, he apparently thought that the democratic state could not succeed under such conditions. It would seem, however, that Mill did not sufficiently interrogate the terms ‘nation’ and ‘nationality’. Although national divisions have torn states apart, they do not always do so. France, the United States, Sweden, Finland and Poland can all be cited as contemporary empirical examples of democratic states that contain more than one nation but that are stable nonetheless (cf. Freeman 1999: 45). Admittedly, stability is a relative term, and hence is hard to specify precisely in the abstract. However, the instabilities that those contemporary states do experience are caused not so much by national divisions, but by such things as social and economic inequality, class discrimination, regional crises, globalisation, international terrorism and even by natural disasters. Mill’s use of the term ‘nationality’ is also conceptually problematic. Nationality can refer to a form of common political identity that binds citizens together in a common allegiance to the state, its institutions and civic offices. But it can also refer to a form of common political identity that is analytically distinct from the state and that is primarily expressed in ethnic, rather than civic, terms (see generally, Hutchinson and Smith 1994). Mill never makes clear which form of nationality he intends; he simply assumes that multi-national states cannot succeed. Yet although this assumption is clearly wrong, it nevertheless contains an important grain of truth. National identity can take two basic forms, civic or ethnic. Neither form is good or bad in itself, just as identity in general is neither good nor bad in itself. However, a multi-national state will succeed democratically only if it manages to reconcile those two basic forms. In other words, a successful multi-national state will be one that binds citizens together in a common civic national identity, but does not do so at the expense of their particular ethnic identities. In Chapter 3, I consider the distinction between civic and ethnic forms of national identity with respect to three different models of democracy, namely liberalism, republicanism and deliberative democracy. In this section, however, I explore what ethnic identity is, how it becomes — 37 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies politicised and why it sometimes leads to conflict. Before examining these issues, it is worth stressing once again that ethnicity is not necessarily inimical to democracy in multi-national states. Some ethnic groups, such as the Welsh or the Scots in Great Britain, the Bretons or the Basques in France, the Catalans or the Galicians in Spain, or the first nations in Canada and the United States are conscious of their own ethnic identity but show little desire to disrupt the democratic order under which they live (see generally Keating 2001). For such groups, ethnicity is not a highly politicised category. Rather, it is instead primarily conceived in cultural terms that are compatible with a commitment to a more general civic allegiance to the state. In other contexts, however, ethnicity becomes so politicised that it calls the state itself into question. Although the list is almost endless, one thinks, for example, of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, Muslims in Kashmir, Ossetians in Georgia or even Sunni Muslims in Iraq. In such cases, ethnic groups claim that the state should cease to exist (at least in its present form), or that other groups should cease to be part of the state to which they currently belong. When the politicisation of ethnicity gets to this stage, we get the kinds of deep, ethno-national divisions with which we are concerned in this book. Within the literature, two approaches to defining ethnicity or ethnic identity predominate: primordialism and constructivism. Like most people in academia nowadays, I take it that constructivism is the more convincing ontological view; it is, as we will now see, more successful at explaining the existence of ethnic groups. However, when it comes to explaining just why it is that ethnicity can be such a virulent and destructive political force, we will also see that primordialism still has important lessons to teach. Although the term ‘primordialism’ is generally associated with the work of scholars such as Edward Shils, Clifford Geertz, Anthony Smith and Walker Connor, it should be said that those scholars are not a selfconsciously unified group (Horowitz 2003a). Nevertheless, at the most basic level, those scholars all share the view that ethnicity is given rather than chosen – we are born into different ethnic groups and so cannot simply decide to join another. For example, I am an Irish person who lives and works in England. No matter how much I might desire to be English, and no matter how many English cultural characteristics I take on, the fact remains that I am Irish by descent, and so nothing that I do will alter this basic fact. Accordingly, on a primordialist view, an individual can shed all the overt cultural manifestations customarily attributed to his or her ethnic group and yet maintain his or her fundamental identity as a member of that group. In this sense, primordialists need not hold that the tangible, cultural manifestations of ethnicity are immutable; they need only hold that the — 38 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation bonds of ethnicity that link group members across time and space are based on a sense of kinship, uniqueness or psychological essence that is highly durable (Connor 1994: 104; cf. Brass 1996: 85–6) Before turning to the constructivist view, a number of further remarks about primordialism are in order. First, as Connor points out, ‘In the traditional sense of an ancestrally related unit, it is evident that an ethnic group need not be a subordinate part of a larger political society but may be the dominant element within a state (the Chinese, English, or French, for example) or may extend across several states, as do the Arabs’ (1994: 101). Thus, while it sometimes happens that ethnic groups are minority groups, this need not be the case. Secondly, since primordialism need entail nothing more than a commitment to the view that ethnic identity is pre-given, it is consistent with the claim that ethnic groups may not attach any great political significance to their ethnic identity. Different ethnic groups may live peacefully side by side, and may happily share a common allegiance to the nation state within which they live. However, when an ethnic group comes into contact with another group that it regards as a threat to its survival, then primordialists contend that bitter and prolonged national conflict will ensue. Since primordialism holds that ethnicity is ontologically fundamental – since it goes to the core of our being, our psychological or even biological essence – there may, on this view, be little room for compromise when ethnicities collide and where nationality becomes an issue of the most divisive kind (Esman 1994: 13–14; Horowitz 2003a: 74–6). The primordialist view of ethnicity and ethnic conflict has important institutional implications. If groups have an identifiable and immutable essence, then the rigid institutionalisation of competing ethnic identities may be the only way of resolving conflict and of fostering an overarching sense of civic allegiance to the state. This was the approach taken by Lijphart in his early writings on consociationalism up until about 1980. However, since that time, Lijphart (just like most other scholars in the field of comparative politics) has shifted to a constructivist view of ethnicity, which has had a corresponding influencing on his thinking on questions of institutional design. Lijphart now argues that consociational democracy should be implemented in a way that treats conflicting ethnic groups as ‘self-determining’ rather than as ‘pre-determined’ political units. In other words, it should be implemented in a way that allows for greater flexibility in terms of how individuals and groups participate in political life, for example, by avoiding the use of predetermined or reserved ethnic seats in parliament (Lijphart 1995, 2001; see also McGarry and O’Leary 2004a: 32–6). To understanding the reasoning behind this shift, not just in Lijphart’s work, but in comparative politics more generally, let us turn to the constructivist view of ethnicity. — 39 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Arguably, the classic ‘constructivist’ text is Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983). As the title suggests, that book argues that ethnic identity is not based on some primordial essence, but is instead formed and re-formed in response to changing environmental factors. Although there are many variants of constructivism, those ‘who subscribe to the constructivist approach agree on two basic propositions: First, individuals have multiple identities, not single, ethnic identities; and second, the identity with which they identify varies depending upon some specified causal variable’ (Chandra 2001). In other words, ethnic identities are properly understood as overlapping, interactive and internally contested, as opposed to being understood as discrete, hermetically sealed and crystallised. Thus, on a constructivist view, the term ‘Serb’ does not refer to a single entity but to a range of associations and institutions – including the Orthodox Church, political parties and so forth – that offer a range of definitions of what being ‘Serbian’ means and that act in a range of ways to pursue those definitions, often in competition with one another. How this competition plays itself out will depend on institutional and other contexts: Kosovo Serbs, for example, are not the same as Serbs in the remainder of Serbia. But whatever the context, the point is that group identity is not a property, a set of essential attributes that all members must inevitably possess, but a relationship that members establish and re-establish among themselves, and between themselves and others (Parekh 1999: 68). In a straight choice between constructivism and primordialism, the former is ontologically superior. As the Serb example shows, no ethnic group is a monolith. What is more, ancestral myths are very often just that – myths. Ernest Gellner’s treatment of the creation of an Estonian ethnicity is instructive in this respect (1999: 33). Constructivism also has normatively attractive consequences (James 2004). Because identity is constructed rather than inherited, it should be treated as a voluntary matter. In turn, this calls for the creation of political institutions that allow people to determine for themselves how they will shape their relation to the polity. To the extent that institutions can express this normative standard, they will avoid the risk of trapping individuals within rigidly defined categories that may be untrue to the ways in which they view themselves and the world about them. As I argue at various points later on (and especially Chapter 7), enabling people to engage politically on their own terms may itself be an important step on the road to democracy, at least in so far as it helps reduce the political (as opposed to the cultural) saliency of ethnicity and allows a stronger sense of civic nationalism to emerge. There is, however, a fairly major problem. Although constructivism is the more convincing view, what ultimately matters is how the members of — 40 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation an ethnic group actually think about their identity (Esman 1994: 23). If they perceive that identity as primordial, they will tend to behave accordingly, irrespective of the arguments of political scientists, anthropologists, ethnographers or political psychologists. Of course, constructivists are wont to respond that perceptions are often manipulated by unscrupulous elites who seek to stir up ethnic sentiments in order to further their own ambitions. However, the trouble with such a response is twofold. First, it still leaves us with the problem that ethnicity continues to be experienced primordially, and, second, it overlooks the fact elites may themselves be primordialists (Horowitz 2003a: 80). The fact of the matter, therefore, is that although primordialism may be both ontologically and normatively questionable, we ignore its basic message at our peril: since ethnicity is commonly experienced primordially, this is often the lived reality with which constitutional designers will have to deal. Yet however ethnicity is best explained, the important question is whether deliberative democracy can encourage groups in conflict to take a softer view (cf. Rothchild 1986: 87–93). Before presenting the case for deliberative democracy, there are two further points that need to be addressed – the first concerning the causes of ethnic conflict, the second concerning their potential resolution. First, as William Zartman points out, ethnic conflicts ‘begin with the inability or unwillingness of the government to handle grievances to the satisfaction of the aggrieved; that is, they begin with the breakdown of normal politics’ (1995: 5). It almost goes without saying that grievances may vary enormously from case to case. Nevertheless, Zartman contends that ‘all aggravated grievances can be subsumed under two headings – neglect and discrimination, or a distributional element and an identity element’ (1995: 5). Both topics have, of course, been treated at length by political philosophers. For example, John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin have written extensively about questions of distributive justice, whereas Charles Taylor and Iris Young have written extensively about questions of recognition. However, what the conflict literature teaches us is that both topics need to be treated together if adequate remedies are to be found (cf. Fraser and Honneth 2003). Second, if neglect and discrimination explain why conflict erupts – if it explains how an ethnic groups is converted ‘into a political competitor that seeks to combat ethnic antagonists or to impress ethnically defined interests on the agenda of the state’ (Esman 1994: 27) – then what is it that leads groups in conflict to accept the need to make (or re-make) the move to democracy? How, in other words, might we explain the emergence of a peace process that seeks to establish (or re-establish) normal patterns of — 41 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies democratic politics? Again, Zartman provides the answer. In his view, ethnic groups will only begin to negotiate with one another when they arrive at what he terms a ‘mutually hurting stalemate’: Numerous studies have shown that a mutually hurting stalemate defines the moment as ripe for resolution: both sides are locked in a situation from which they cannot escalate the conflict with their available means and at an acceptable cost. Such a stalemate provides a window of opportunity that is narrow and highly conditional; it depends on perceived rather than objective reality, on a stalemate that affects both sides, and on a discomfort (preferably increasing) felt by both parties. (1994: 8) Barring complete victory or defeat, which, in ethnic conflict terms, may imply anything from genocide to forced assimilation, groups will only begin the transition to democratic politics during those ‘ripe moments’ when all sides converge of their own accord on the view that the conflict cannot be won. Those are extremely fragile moments that are more easily lost than grasped. In Chapter 5, I will argue that deliberative democracy can help at such moments by levelling the playing field between conflicting groups. For now, though, it is time to turn to the definition of deliberative democracy. In what follows, I begin by providing an account of what I mean by democracy and how its value might be explained, before proceeding to give a specifically ‘deliberative’ twist to that account. Democratic values The transition from conflict to democracy is fraught with difficulties and dangers. Progress can be glacial and is prone to breakdowns. The basic reason why is perhaps obvious. Since democracy cannot ensure that any particular set of needs, interests or underlying values will ultimately triumph, democratic transitions will necessarily involve a high degree of risk and uncertainty for everyone involved. As Adam Przeworski puts it: ‘Democratisation is a process of subjecting all interests to competition, of institutionalising uncertainty. It is thus the very devolution of power over outcomes which constitutes the decisive step towards democracy’ (1993: 62). In order to facilitate this transition, it is crucial, therefore, that the interests of different ethnic groups will not be adversely affected by the outcome of the democratic process on anything like a permanent basis. Democracy will inevitably institutionalise uncertainty; but uncertainty must not be so severe that it ends up being politically debilitating. Of course, all of this presumes that we already know what democracy is — 42 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation and why we should support it. In a literal sense, democracy means rule by the people – or, in the extended version that I prefer, it means a political system in which all those who are bound by a governmental decision are entitled to an equal and effective say in its making. But why, we might wonder, is it reasonable to assume that people should be treated as political equals for the purposes of governing? One possible answer is that democracy is particularly good at securing certain kinds of goods – for example, individual liberty, economic efficiency, and peace and stability. But although those are important goods, they are only contingently related to democracy. Since it is at least conceivable that liberty, efficiency, peace and stability might be better secured through some alternative form of government (a benevolent dictatorship, perhaps, or even an enlightened guardian of the Platonic sort), they are not uniquely democratic goods. Following Dahl (1989, 2000), the case that I will present here is premised on the view that any adequate defence of democracy will inevitably fall back on the values of intrinsic equality and personal autonomy. It we accept that every human being has a moral standing that is intrinsically equal to that of any other, and we accept that every human being should be treated as if they are the best judge of their own good and interest, then we will support the view that, for the purposes of governing, citizens are to be treated as politically equal. Admittedly, it is no easy matter to explain why people should accept the values of intrinsic equality and personal autonomy in the first instance. Dahl, for example, cites reasons of morality, prudence and acceptability (2000: 66–8). Rather than take up such abstruse questions here, however, I want instead to explore the implications of these two values for democracy in divided societies. As we will now see, once we make the transition from thinking solely in terms of individual citizens to thinking in terms of the interplay between individual citizens and ethnic groups, matters become extremely complicated indeed. Intrinsic equality The value of intrinsic equality holds that each individual has independent moral standing and hence is valuable in his or her own right. As a moral value, it applies to individuals in general. However, although the shift from morality to politics is rarely straightforward, I agree with Dahl that the interpretation that seems ‘most relevant to the democratic process is expressed in the principle of equal consideration of interests’ (Dahl 1989: 86). On this reading, governments should treat the good and interest of each citizen with equal concern and respect because that is what is demanded by our independent moral standing. Of course, philosophers — 43 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies disagree about the precise requirements that intrinsic equality places upon democratic practices and institutions, since it is not always clear what equal consideration will involve in particular cases. Nevertheless, the point remains that it would be difficult to make sense of the idea of political equality without assuming that each of us is intrinsically valuable. While Dahl’s discussion turns on the intrinsic equality of individuals, a key claim in many divided societies is that this value can also be ascribed to groups. As Peter Jones explains, the suggestion here is that because groups can be attributed with moral standing that is separate from the moral standing attributed to their individual members, they can be treated as if they were valuable in and of themselves (Jones 1999a). Typically, this suggestion leads to calls for group rights and other institutional guarantees of status. In this vein, Quebec governments have succeeded in introducing measures aimed at preserving the French language into the future, and at ensuring the survival of their culture more generally. Most notably, they have implemented and upheld laws and regulations that forbid Francophones and immigrants to send their children to English-language schools, that establish French as the language in which firms with more than fifty employees will operate, and that in general prescribe French as the language of business (Taylor 1994: 58). From one perspective, institutional guarantees of status can help reduce insecurities and tensions between groups, and hence help lessen the difficulties that they can face in sharing political power. But from another perspective, it is difficult to see how the thought that intrinsic equality can be ascribed to groups can be rendered compatible with ascribing intrinsic equality to their individual members (Habermas 1994: 110–11; Barry 2001a: 50). Institutionalising groups as if they were valuable in their own right seemingly assumes that groups are static, or that groups mean the same thing to each and every member. To think this is to run the risk of trapping individuals within rigid ethnic categories that may be untrue to their more personal identity. Put another way, it is to assume a primordialist ontology that may fail to treat some members as valuable in themselves. The trouble is, of course, that although there may be dissenters, the majority of members may perceive their ethnicity along primordialist lines. They may genuinely think that, for example, being Serbian, Bosniak or Croat is not something that can be thrown on and off at will, but is instead something that is intrinsically valuable in its own right. For those who think in such terms, membership is not a voluntary matter, but is instead something (an obligation as much as a trust) into which one is born and for which one may be expected to die. Such perceptions may not fit the historical facts as identified by historians, political scientists and so forth. — 44 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation They may also make it very difficult for individual members to express dissenting views. It would, however, be enormously foolish to discount primordialist views simply because we think they are misguided. All of this creates an enormous dilemma, both philosophically and in terms of its implications for questions of institutional choice. On the one hand, any convincing account of democracy must fall back on the value of intrinsic equality as ascribed to individuals. But since we must also take seriously the fact that group members will often view their ethnicity as intrinsically valuable, the danger is that these two moral imperatives may conflict. What, then, should institutional designers do? Do they simply have to live with this potential tension and muddle through as best they can when conflicts arise? Or perhaps the sensible thing for them to do is to avoid getting caught up in philosophical debates about the nature and scope of democratic values, favouring instead an incremental, piecemeal approach that allows values to emerge under their own steam (but see Goodin 1982: 3–4 and chapter 2). In what follows, I show that such conclusions are too hasty. Taken on its own, intrinsic equality does appear to come up short as a value to which institutional designers might appeal when thinking about what equal consideration might actually mean in a divided society. However, when intrinsic equality is combined with the value of personal autonomy, a philosophical solution emerges that offers real practical guidance. Personal autonomy According to Dahl, it may ‘come as an unpleasant surprise to learn that even if we accept intrinsic equality and the equal consideration of interests as sound moral judgements, we are not necessarily bound to endorse democracy as the process for governing a state’ (2000: 69). The reason why is as follows. Although intrinsic equality supports the view that government must aspire to treat citizens as if their interests were equally important, that view is simply too weak to justify the basic democratic assumption that citizens should, all things considered, have an equal say in the process of governing. As Dahl explains, it would not offend this value if I were to claim that since I know what is best for you, and since I can be trusted to advance your interests as if they were my own, then I ought to speak for both of us (1989: 87–8). In response, Dahl argues that a more robust justification for democracy can be constructed by joining the value of intrinsic equality to a second fundamental value: the value of personal autonomy. That value straightforwardly says that people should be treated as if they are the best judge of their own good and interest. Naturally, this is not to suggest that people — 45 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies always get it right, since this would amount to an empirical claim that may or may not be true in particular cases. Rather, it is a moral judgement about how citizens ought to treat one another for the purposes of governing (cf. Dahl 1989: 87–8). If our aim is to justify the view that all those who are bound by a decision should have an equal say in its making, it is not enough simply to appeal to the value of intrinsic equality. Rather, we must also appeal to the value of personal autonomy since that is the only way to ensure that citizens really will have the right to speak for themselves and to advance their own good and interest as they see it. It order to appreciate what is at issue here, it is worth distinguishing between two ways in which the value of personal autonomy might be justified. We could provide an instrumental account of personal autonomy – autonomy matters because it enables each person to get his or her interests taken into consideration. However, autonomy can also be given intrinsic value – as a person I simply have the right to make decisions for myself, irrespective of whether or not that is in my best (instrumental) interest. I take it that the latter, moral justification has priority, if for no other reason than what often enrages us most is not being mistaken about our good or interest, but being denied the right to make those mistakes for ourselves. In this sense, autonomy is important not just for what it enables us to achieve, but more fundamentally, for what it contributes to our dignity as individual persons. There is, admittedly, a problem in translating that argument straight to democracy since, when I decide as a member of a demos, my decision relates to others’ lives as well as to my own. In the present context, however, there is a more pressing problem that needs to be addressed. To the extent that the realities of modern life (including such things as constraints on time and problems of scale) are such that representative democracy is by and large unavoidable, it is not merely who can best judge an interest but who is most likely to promote it that matters (Mill 1991 [1861]: 245–7). In fact, the latter consideration often proves the more conclusive consideration, as Dahl’s discussion of the brutal, humiliating treatment of blacks in the southern United States until the 1960s and in South Africa until the 1990s amply testifies (Dahl 1989: 103–4). While countless other examples could easily be cited, the important point to pick up on here is that the failure by some to safeguard and promote the interests of others, particularly when those others have (or are perceived to have) a different group identity, has been a principal justification for establishing political systems based on power sharing. Moreover, this failure also helps explain why the dominant tendency has been to call for the rigid institutionalisation of group identities (for example, by providing reserved or pre-determined seats in a legislature) as a key means of protecting vital group interests. — 46 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation Now, it is perhaps easy to forget that this dimension of the value of personal autonomy is not just a matter that affects relations between groups, but also has crucial consequences for relations within groups. Institutionalising group identities may help protect groups from one another and hence afford them a more equal and effective voice within the democratic process. But it may also turn a group’s identity into a commodity over which its leaders must compete in order to gain or retain political power. In particular, the tendency of those on the political extremes to portray themselves as holding true to the group’s ‘authentic’ identity and aspirations may encourage those of the moderate middle to follow suit; it may, that is, encourage even moderates to treat the group as if it were a monolithic whole or run the risk of losing electoral support (Horowitz 2001, 2002). In saying this, I do not mean to deny that, in some instances, the only option is to rigidly institutionalise competing group identities, especially in contexts where the memories of violent conflict are still fresh and where insecurity is pervasive. However, I contend that in so far as democracy presupposes a commitment to the value of personal autonomy – in so far as democracy is built not just on a commitment to equal treatment but also on a commitment to having an equal say in the decisions that bind us – those charged with designing power-sharing institutions should ultimately aim towards a very different vision of what power sharing should involve, even if that vision is not obtainable in the shorter term. I maintain that it is possible to design democratic institutions in a way that is compatible with both the value of personal autonomy and the peremptory need to protect groups in conflict from one another. The approach that I have in mind calls for a form of power sharing containing mechanisms to ensure that those who see themselves as belonging to distinctive groups can participate effectively as such within the democratic process, but that does not bind citizens’ capacity for effective participation exclusively to those mechanisms (see Hadden 2000: 87, 2005: 176). Special language provisions provide a good illustration of what is at issue here. On the one hand, they are often included in power-sharing arrangements as a key means of creating equality between competing groups; but on the other, they can be institutionalised in such a way that group members need not be required to speak the language. Either way, the value of personal autonomy implies that this choice should be left open. But this is not all. In so doing, it also leaves it to people to decide for themselves whether groups can be intrinsically valuable, or whether the value of intrinsic equality should only be ascribed to individuals. As such, the approach that I favour remains agnostic on the question of whether or not ethnicity is primordial or constructed. — 47 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Far from being unrealistic, this more fluid approach is consistent with a number of recent developments in international law. In particular, it is consistent with the basic thinking that underpins both the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992) and the European Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities (1995). Once again, I want to stress that this approach may not be appropriate in every context. In some divided societies, especially those that have recently emerged from periods of intense, internecine violence, more rigidly institutionalised forms of power sharing and identity may well be necessary to counteract deep feelings of insecurity and mistrust between groups. However, to the extent that we accept that democratic institutions can and should be informed by the values of intrinsic equality and personal autonomy, divided societies should aim to achieve those standards in the longer run. I will return to these institutional considerations at various points throughout the remainder of this book. For now, though, I want to complete this present chapter by offering an extended definition of a specifically deliberative conception of democracy. Defining deliberative democracy I take it that the values of intrinsic equality and personal autonomy constitute the ‘moral core’ of democracy – taken together, those two values support the view that all those who are bound by a decision should have an equal say in its making. But since that core can be realised in an indeterminate number of ways, it can also generate an indeterminate number of (potentially competing) conceptions of democracy. One familiar way of reducing this indeterminacy, or of making it more manageable, is to classify democratic conceptions according to whether they are substantive or procedural in kind. Substantive conceptions appeal to independent moral standards when assessing whether or not a political outcome or decision is justified (utilitarianism or egalitarian liberalism, for example), whereas procedural conceptions instead appeal to features of the process by which those decisions are generated (universal suffrage or majority rule, for example) (Gutmann and Thompson 2004: 23–6). Although the distinction between substance and procedure is never entirely clear cut, it nevertheless provides a useful starting point from which to define the particular conception of deliberative democracy that I seek to advance in this book. The deliberative approach that I advocate is procedural, at least in the first instance. As such, it holds that the values of political equality and personal autonomy should govern how democratic deliberation ought to — 48 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation proceed rather than prescribe the actual content of the decisions that result (cf. Habermas 1996, 1999a, b). Of course, it must be acknowledged that some deliberative democrats take issue with purely procedural approaches. Amy Gutmann and Denis Thompson, for example, argue that since social, economic and political conditions are often such that some voices in society are denied an effective say, deliberative outcomes should meet a number of substantive tests (basic liberty, basic opportunity and equal opportunity) before they can be considered just (1996, 2004). And yet, when viewed from a proceduralist perspective, the trouble with including substantive principles within a theory of deliberative democracy is that it runs the risk of prejudging the content of the political: while, for example, we might all agree that just political decisions should not transgress the principle of equal individual liberty, the question of whether or not a particular law or policy is consistent with that right is surely one that only citizens and their representatives should have the right to decide (Habermas 1999a: 59). Thus, although the values of equality and autonomy can be appealed to in order to ground substantive principles, political philosophers do not occupy a privileged position with respect to how those values should be elaborated and applied in particular empirical contexts. Where they really come into their own is with respect to such issues as clarifying the terms and conditions under which public reasoning and deliberation about the actual content of those principles might best proceed (cf. O’Flynn 2004). This, of course, is no more than to agree with the received view that, among social scientists, political scientists are best qualified with respect to analysing the power dynamics at play between different individuals and groups (see, for example, Dahl 1968; Goodin 1996: 15–16). That said, I accept that a purely procedural approach to democratic deliberation – one that allowed no space whatsoever for substantive constraints on collective outcomes – would be found wanting in all too many instances. Just as it would be odd to ignore consequentialist considerations altogether, it would be odd, if not altogether perverse, to ignore the fact that ‘procedures (such as majority rule) can produce unjust decisions (such as discrimination against minorities)’ (Gutmann and Thompson 2004: 24). This procedural/substantive dilemma is a familiar one from democratic theory, pitting the ‘liberties of the ancients’ against the ‘liberties of moderns’, or constitutionalism against democracy (see Cohen 1997b: 409–12). Essentially, the dilemma boils down to a clash between the idea that there are some rights that are owed to us simply by virtue of our status as human beings and that are in this sense pre-political, and the seemingly contradictory assumption that whatever rights we might actually hold can only be determined and afforded to us through man-made law. In recent — 49 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies years, Ju¨rgen Habermas has tried (with some success, in my view) to resolve this dilemma within the ambit of his own proceduralist conception of deliberative democracy by showing that civil and political rights mutually presuppose one another. In sum, he argues that people would not willingly enter into a democratic association unless they knew that their civil rights would be safeguarded from the tyranny of the majority. Yet while this might lead us to conclude that civil rights are therefore foundational, this overlooks the fact that those rights need to be elaborated in ways that enable them to meet the needs and mores of particular democratic associations. Accordingly, it is only through the process of exercising our political rights in particular contexts that civil rights can take on a determinate or substantive shape. Hence, civil and political rights are ‘co-original’ in the sense that they work together as a package deal (Habermas 1996: 118–22, 454–7 and passim, 2001, passim). In this way, then, Habermas accounts for the need to make space for the importance of substantive constraints on democratic decisions (or to avoid procedurally correct, but morally unjust, political outcomes), an approach that has received no small amount of attention in the deliberative democracy literature (see, for example, Rosenfeld and Arato 1998). Rather than pursue this particular approach any further here, I want instead to take up an alternative argument offered by Joshua Cohen which I think better serves to illustrate the defining features of deliberative democracy as I conceive of it. Central to this alternative argument is the enormously suggestive claim that ‘the requirement of providing acceptable reasons for the exercise of political power to those who are governed by it . . . expresses the equal membership of all in the sovereign body responsible for authorizing the exercise of that power’ (Cohen 1997b: 416). In a deliberative democracy, decisions are based on public reasoning and discussion among politically equal citizens. As the phrase ‘acceptable reasons’ suggests, however, it will not do simply to offer reasons that we ourselves find compelling since this would be to ignore – or, worse still, to discount – the fact that reasonable people often have very different interests and adhere to very different values (Rawls 1996: 49–54 and passim). Rather, deliberative democracy requires us to advance reasons that we think others, too, might be freely able to accept, ‘acknowledging’, as Cohen puts it, ‘those others as equals, aware that they have alternative reasonable commitments, and knowing something about the kinds of commitments that they are likely to have’ (1997b: 414). The first and most basic defining feature of a deliberative democracy, therefore, is its reason-giving requirement, or what I shall discuss in Chapter 4 under the heading of ‘the requirement of reciprocity’. That requirement — 50 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation constrains citizens to be respectful of the different values and commitments that others may have and, by corollary, of the role that social context plays in determining what may, or may not, count as an acceptable reason (Habermas 1994: 112–13; cf. Shapiro 2003: 30–4). Accordingly, if we start from a particular kind of social or political background – for example, a society divided along religious or ethnic lines – then that background ought to constrain the kinds of substantive reasons that can be advanced when debating matters of collective choice. Failing to take that background into consideration when advancing reasons – for example, by couching arguments in terms of a particular religious doctrine or by using ethno-centric language – suggests that we need not take the interests and opinions of others into account when deciding what to do, or to accord their views the kind of ‘conditional authority’ (Waldron 1999: 223) that is due to them as political equals. Clearly, this kind of failure can have dramatic effects. It can foster resentment among the disenfranchised, thwart attempts at peacebuilding and democratisation and, in the worst case, lead a divided society to collapse into violence and bloodshed. The moral basis for this reason-giving process is firmly grounded in the value of intrinsic equality. It is grounded, that is, in the view that democratic citizens should not treat one another merely as competitors – or, as so often happens in divided societies, as passive subjects to be ruled – but should instead regard each citizen’s good or interest as intrinsically equal to that of any other. To deny them this standing is to deny them their standing as equal members of the sovereign citizen body; it is to treat them as means rather than as ends in themselves, as obstacles rather than as fellow participants in a common political enterprise. On this view, therefore, substantive constrains on the justification of collective decisions derive from the requirement of finding reasons for political action that other citizens might freely be able to accept rather than from independent moral principles. Otherwise put, on this deliberative view, substantive constraints are not external to the collective decision-making process but are built into the basic procedure by which that process is to operate. Now, as I argued above, the value of intrinsic equality is too weak, taken on its own, to support the basic assumption upon which all forms of democracy ultimately rest – namely that all those who are bound by a decision should be entitled to an equal say in its making. And so it follows that the requirement of reciprocity is not sufficient to ground a specifically deliberative conception of democracy. For in so far as the requirement of reciprocity is concerned only with how to justify political proposals, it might underpin the decisions of a small and highly exclusive group of ruling elites just as easily as it might underpin the decisions of a large and highly — 51 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies representative legislative assembly. But what, we might wonder, would the value of personal autonomy look like from a deliberative perspective? Does it really make sense to say that, because people ought to be treated as if they are the best judge of their own interest, they ought to be entitled to gather together in order to debate how those interests might be met? The problem here should be obvious: the sheer scale of most modern democratic societies seems to make nonsense of the idea that citizens should come together in order to debate the political issues of the day (but see Ackerman and Fishkin 2002, 2004). However, even if it were possible for large numbers of citizens to gather together, the inevitable time constraints under which most political decisions must be taken would surely mean that many of them would not have time to speak. In response to these sorts of difficulties, most deliberative theorists have embraced the need for broad representative government (cf. Dryzek 2000: 81–114, 2005). They insist, however, that representatives should not simply deliberate among themselves, but should also be required to listen to, and reason with, all of those they represent. In Chapter 5, I will consider this requirement under the heading of ‘publicity’, when I will explore its implications for negotiating peace agreements. In the present context, however, the more relevant issue concerns how the deliberative requirement of publicity might be thought to satisfy the value of personal autonomy. Although the classic definition of the requirement of publicity is given by Immanuel Kant’s ‘transcendental formula of public law’ (a definition which I return to in Chapter 5), we can get a clearer and more immediate sense of this requirement by reflecting on Mill’s well-known argument that the most important function of a democratic legislature is to act as a ‘Congress of Opinions’, by which he intended an arena in which not only the general opinion of the nation, but that of every section of it, and as far as possible of every eminent individual whom it contains, can produce itself in full light and challenge discussion; where every person in the country may count upon finding somebody who speaks his mind, as well or better than he could speak it himself – not to friends and partisans exclusively, but in the face of opponents, to be tested by adverse controversy; where those whose opinion is overruled, feel satisfied that it is heard, and set aside not by a mere act of will, but for what are thought superior reasons. (1991 [1861]: 282) Now, one of the most striking features of this argument is its intensely public character. Not only is every section of society to have a voice, but also ‘every eminent individual whom it contains’ is to have his or her — 52 —

Division, Democracy and Deliberation opinion openly tested. And so, while it may not be possible for everyone to deliberate at the same time, the requirement of publicity calls for a political system in which everyone ‘may count upon finding somebody who speaks his mind, as well or better than he could speak it himself’. It calls, that is, for a political system that does not focus solely on the main interest groups in society, but also makes room for marginalised and vulnerable voices. Linking back to our earlier discussion, it calls for a political system that allows some citizens to voice their concerns in other than ethnic terms. Women, for example, may view themselves as members of distinct ethnic groups. However, they may also view themselves as a group in their own right, with interests and concerns that cut across ethnic lines. Those interests are, in the main, poorly provided for within the terms of most existing power-sharing arrangements – or at least in practice tend to be viewed as being of lesser importance than those of the main ethnic groups (Rebouche´ and Fearon 2005; cf. Htun 2004). Under such conditions, women cannot feel that their views have been ‘tested by adverse controversy’; nor, when decisions do not go their way, can they feel satisfied that their interests have been ‘set aside not by a mere act of will, but for what are thought superior reasons’. Publicity therefore requires those charged with designing power-sharing institutions to consider not just the main contending groups, but also others in society. Put another way, it requires them to think not just in terms of political stability, but also in terms of political equality. Admittedly, conditions may be such that we have no choice but to focus, at least in the first instance, on how to secure stability between the main contending ethnic groups. This is especially so in contexts where the memories of violent conflict are still fresh and where insecurity is wholly rife, or indeed where the likelihood of a return to violence is still very real. But even here it is important to bear in mind that our ability to move beyond such conditions is often made all the more difficult when the institutions under which we live permanently remind us of our differences. Although more fluid group protections may not be an option at the outset of a peace process, they should nevertheless remain a fundamental objective, actively pursued by policy makers in a determined fashion, and properly resourced from the beginning of any post-agreement implementation process (O’Flynn and Russell 2005: 6). All of this assumes, of course, that deliberative democracy is the best form of democracy available. More accurately, it assumes that deliberative democracy will fare better with respect to the task of reconciling ethnic and civic nationalisms than its main democratic rivals. I turn to this issue in the next chapter. — 53 —

Chapter 3

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship

The last chapter began by discussing John Stuart Mill’s claim that a democratic state will not succeed unless its citizens share a common national identity. This chapter seeks to expand upon that discussion by examining two main forms that national identity might conceivably take. The first of these forms stresses civic institutions, public offices, agencies and officials, as well as common and authoritative rules that typically apply across the territory of a given state. By contrast, the second of these forms stresses the importance of ethnicity and culture, ancestral memories and struggles, and common fears and hopes for the future. These two forms should not be thought of as mutually exclusive, since in practice they will often overlap. Nevertheless, to the extent that a democratic society really does aspire to treat all of its citizens equally, irrespective of their more particular differences and divisions, I will argue that the creation of an overarching civic nationality should be one of its principal goals. The chapter will then consider how an overarching civic nationality might best be facilitated in a divided society. To this end, I start by considering two (admittedly stylised) normative models of the democratic state, liberalism and republicanism. As I will portray it, liberalism holds that the institutions of the democratic state should aim to ensure that citizens have access to the same range of rights, resources and opportunities, so that they are equally free to pursue their particular interests as they see fit. Otherwise put, those institutions should be neutral with respect to questions of ethnicity. Against this liberal view, I will argue that, in practice, the liberal state, first, can never be wholly neutral with respect to the question of ethnicity, and, secondly, cannot adequately respond to the kinds of claims that groups in conflict typically make. As a consequence, liberalism cannot adequately explain how a common civic nationality might, in practice, be fostered in a divided society. The republican model of democracy does enable its proponents to explain how a civic identity might be generated and sustained. Moreover, — 54 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship it also helps us to appreciate the crucial role that deliberation plays in creating a sense of common political allegiance to the state. However, if the worry is that liberalism asks too much of the state, then the worry is that republicanism asks too much of citizens, as least as far as divided societies are concerned. In stressing a substantive ideal that gives pride of place to political participation, republicanism tends to treat ethnicity as if it were little more than an archaic throwback. In so doing, it not only fails to reconcile ethnic and civic allegiances, but also risks turning the state into an arena of conflict in which different ethnic groups seek to stamp their own identity on its institutions. In contrast to both of those views, deliberative democracy does not deny the political significance of ethnicity or its relation to the state. Unlike liberalism, deliberative democracy does not rely upon a claim of state neutrality; nor is it precluded from responding institutionally to the claims that ethnic groups make. Unlike republicanism, it does not require the citizens to relegate their ethnicity from the public to the private sphere. Instead, deliberative democracy privileges a proceduralist view according to which a civic national identity is formed and reformed in the light of changing political circumstances. Finally, in response to the objection that a procedural view is simply too thin to sustain a transition from conflict to democracy, I will argue that, as far as divided societies are concerned, it is not up to political philosophers to decide what the state ought to look like. What matters is that they help to clarify the conditions under which citizens can make such decisions between themselves. Civic and ethnic nationalism In the opening section of the last chapter I suggested two reasons why a democratic system must be underpinned by a common national identity if it is to function successfully. The first of those reasons takes as its starting point the basic idea that in a democracy, the authority to exercise political power resides ultimately in the people, and in the people equally. However, where the people are divided – where they do not or cannot think of themselves as forming a single demos or citizen body – political authority will be correspondingly undermined. By contrast, the second reason that I highlighted turned on the idea that unless citizens can think of themselves as engaged in a common political enterprise – unless they can feel a sense of shared allegiance to the institutions under which they live – they will not be motivated to comply with the inevitable burdens and demands that come with living in a self-governing society. Now, while it is certainly important to know why a common national identity is so necessary to democracy, this — 55 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies leaves two further questions unanswered. Firstly, it does not tell us what form national identity ideally ought to take, and, secondly, it does not tell us how such an identity might be bolstered and sustained, especially (although by no means exclusively) in the case of a divided society. In this section I will address the first of these two questions before moving on to consider the second in the remainder of this chapter. Nationalism and national identity can take one of two forms: civic or ethnic. Civic nationalism is a form of nationalism in which citizens share a sense of allegiance to a common set of political institutions, normally, though not always, centred on the institutions of the state and its territorial boundaries. This allegiance is the focus of citizens’ common political identity, binding them together by means of an appeal to what Ju¨rgen Habermas calls ‘constitutional patriotism’ (Habermas 1994: 134; MacCormick 1999a: 126). Although civic nationalism is a specifically political form of identity, it may, over time, come to generate and become the focus of a stronger sense of common cultural identity. It may, for example, lead citizens to share a stronger sense of common history, imbue them with feelings of pride in their nation’s achievements, and may even bind them together through a common language or other cultural attributes. By contrast, ethnic nationalism is not about citizenship or shared civic institutions, at least not in the first instance, but is instead based a sense of belonging of the blood-and-soil type. The sense of common identity that ethnic nationalism brings can, like civic nationalism, be expressed through such things as a shared language, history, or set of political institutions. But unlike civic nationalism, it is often the case that only those who are born into the group, or who are willing to fully assimilate to its cultural demands, can become full members of the ethnic nation. Thus, whereas civic nationalism seeks to build a common political identity that can be distinguished from citizens’ more particular cultural or ethnic affiliations (or at least one that is not reducible to any one of them), ethnic nationalism presupposes no such distinction. On the contrary, ethnic nationalists typically seek to impose their identity on the institutions of the state. Yet although ethnic nationalists may aspire to their own state, the reality is that there are not enough states to go around (Gottlieb 1999: 121; Wilson 2001: 368). Consequently, ethnic groups can all too easily find themselves engaging in struggles for recognition within, and across, existing state boundaries. That said, civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism can, and generally do, shade into one another (in fact, they are probably best thought of as existing along a single continuum), which is why we should not regard them as exclusive. As I suggested above, feelings of allegiance to a set of historically — 56 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship continuous civic institutions can, over time, create a stronger sense of cultural identity among the citizens who have shared those institutions. For example, it is possible that an official language defined by the constitution, a national sport, or even a national cuisine might come to take on greater cultural significance for society as a whole, especially during moments when citizens seek to differentiate themselves from neighbouring societies. By the same token, a national identity that has been defined in largely ethnic terms may come to lose some of its ethnic exclusivity. Members of a particular ethnic group may wish to think of their identity as more inclusive, perhaps as a result of their position within a changing international order. In turn, this new-found inclusivity may encourage members to lessen the demands for assimilation that they impose on outsiders who desire to join the nation (MacCormick 1999a; Parekh 1999). Despite the fact that both kinds of national identity, civic and ethnic, exist along a single continuum, it is nonetheless important to distinguish carefully between them. As a purely empirical matter, ‘civic’ and ‘ethnic’ are simply terms to which we might appeal in order to account for certain ontological features of the social and political world (see Taylor 1995: 183). There is, in this sense, no need to judge between them (just as in the last chapter I suggested that identity is neither good nor bad in itself). However, if we accept that Mill is correct to argue that a democratic society cannot succeed unless its citizens share a common nationality, then at least two important normative judgements follow with respect to divided societies. First, if the aim is to turn a divided society into a successful democracy, the creation of an overarching sense of civic identity must be made a public policy priority. Second, although a common civic identity should be a primary goal, that goal should not be pursued at the cost of citizens’ more particular ethnic affiliations. Once ethnic identities have become politicised (the usual story in divided societies), they cannot easily (or safely, for that matter) be overlooked or excluded. Such a policy would, in all likelihood, be utterly self-defeating. In divided societies, then, ethnic identities must be recognised and protected by the state if the transition to democracy is to succeed. Crucially, however, they must not be recognised or protected in a way that impedes the development of an overarching civic identity. In practice, what this will call for is a process of negotiation in which groups come together in order to determine what rights they are to have and what interests they have in common or are willing to share. The agreements that they reach mark a crucial shift. Once ethnic groups agree to deliberate with one another, they will no longer be able to justify their claims simply by appealing to their own interests. Instead, if they want their claims to succeed, they will have to begin to think about how those — 57 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies claims will impact on others. It is at this point that the members of ethnic groups begin to act as citizens, a shift that is fundamental to the development of an overarching sense of civic nationality. At the same time, it must be stressed again that a civic identity is not a neutral identity, but will inevitably reflect and express some particular set of underlying values and aspirations. In other words, a civic national identity will inevitably contain shadings of ethnicity and culture. As Jeremy Webber explains: Civic nationalism, like any nationalism, is concerned with cherishing real societies, and that means cherishing those societies’ particularity. Any national feeling, any patriotism, must draw upon aspects of a society’s history and contemporary expression that carry cultural weight. This inevitably privileges some cultural phenomena over others. (1999: 95–6) Once we allow that a civic identity is always ‘culturally patterned’ (Habermas 1994: 126), the obvious question is how to ensure that the patterning of the state will not itself become a source of conflict and division. The first step in achieving this is to openly recognise that ‘culture is relevant to political engagement, that cultural concerns are inevitably implicated in political judgement’ (Webber 1999: 97). The second step is to recognise that a dominant ethnic group is bound to assert itself in the normal course of events, and hence is bound to leave its imprint on the civic identity of the state. However, when a dominant group becomes overly possessive of the state, and leaves little room for the political expression of alternative ethnic identities, a divided society will become increasingly prone to conflict (Parekh 1999: 72). For example, the 1991 Macedonian constitution makes Macedonia the ‘national state of the Macedonian people’, effectively marginalising the large Albanian minority as well as other smaller ethnic groups, including Turks, Roma, Serbs and Muslims (Bieber 2005: 107). Similarly, when some leaders in Malaysia insist that their country is Malay, they act as if Malays are the sole owners of the state and in the process treat the Indian, Chinese and other minority groups as outsiders who should be tolerated but whose ethnicity should not be afforded equal standing (Parekh 1999: 70). Examples could easily be multiplied. One thinks, for example, of the plight of the Russian minority in Estonia, the Arab minority in Israel, the Indian minority in Fiji, or the African minority in Guyana. In all of these cases, and in a great many more besides, subjugated groups typically argue that the state has been unfairly appropriated by a dominant group and made to serve one set of ethnic interests above all others (Parekh 1999: 71–2). They — 58 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship argue, moreover, that their members are unjustly forced to choose between denying their own ethnicity or asserting their identity at the price of nonrecognition or non-participation in civic life. What follows, therefore, is that although dominant groups tend to predominate politically, a civic identity must be defined as broadly as possible so that weaker groups can see that their identity is also reflected in the state. As Bhikhu Parekh concludes, the state ‘cannot, and should not be ethnically and culturally neutral, as it then satisfies nobody and lacks the power to evoke deep historical memories, but neither should it be biased towards a particular community as it then de-legitimises and alienates others’ (1999: 73). The development of an open and pluralistic civic nationalism will require a great deal of mutual recognition and accommodation. It will require dominant groups to be magnanimous in their dealing with weaker groups, just as it will require weaker groups to show forbearance in return. For both, it will mean prioritising a basic respect for democratic institutions, as well as a willingness to accept the elementary requirements of democratic engagement and the corresponding conditions of democratic legitimacy (Webber 1999: 98). Without this common willingness, the debate over civic versus ethnic nationality becomes purely academic. In summary, then, the first and most obvious point is that bolstering and sustaining a sense of common nationality in a multi-ethnic state is an exceedingly difficult enterprise. The second point is that if a democratic society is genuinely committed to the view that each citizen should have an equal and effective say in the making of collective decisions, then its national identity should not be reducible to any one ethnic identity (notwithstanding the fact that dominant groups will normally predominate). Instead, that identity should be defined as broadly and as inclusively as possible, although not so broadly that it fails to generate a sense of common allegiance from the greatest possible number of citizens. In other words, the set of common political and cultural allegiances that attach to citizenship must be conceived, as far as practicably possible, in a manner that treats ‘the nation as open to all who come under and accept the jurisdiction of civic institutions’, irrespective of their more particular differences and commitments (MacCormick 1999a: 126). Of course, it is one thing to say that citizens should strive to create an open and inclusive civic identity in which all can share. It is another thing entirely to explain just how such an identity might be bolstered and sustained. In the following sections, I want to explore this last issue, beginning with an evaluation of two highly stylised conceptions of democracy: liberalism and republicanism. In this I take my lead from Habermas who, in order to define his own conception of deliberative democracy, — 59 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies charts a middle course between two such models (Habermas 1996, 1999). More specifically, I follow Habermas in arguing that, while deliberative democracy draws on both of these traditions, its aim is to find a proper balance between the liberal concern for individual liberty and the republican emphasis on political solidarity. Let me begin, therefore, by outlining a liberal view of the democratic process. Liberalism Liberalism is a political outlook composed of many different strands. Yet since the concern here is not with liberalism per se but with how a stronger sense of civic national identity might be created among members of a divided society, I will simply base my argument on what might be most readily recognised as a liberal view of the democratic state. That view is typically associated with the names of Locke and Mill, and more recently with the early Rawls and Brian Barry, and links a concern for equal liberty to a strict application of the view that individual citizens and their rights are what matter most. For such liberals, a democracy should be principally understood as an association of individuals, each of whom pursues a particular conception of the good life or personal life plan. Accordingly, the function of the democratic state is to facilitate those life plans as far as possible, consistent with a similar liberty for all. This means that the democratic state must not be discriminatory, or at least not arbitrarily so, for if it were to espouse some particular conception of the good, the principle of equal liberty would be breached. From this liberal standpoint, then, living together in society requires no particular consensus on the good life, but only a willingness to respect the rules by which society operates. Naturally, this does not mean that individuals are free to pursue any interests whatsoever; on the contrary, liberals hold that our freedom must be judiciously delimited so that the personal life plans of some do not infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. This liberal vision of a just democratic society is often summed up by the claim that ‘the right is prior to the good’ (see, for example, Rawls 1971: 31), which is normally taken to mean that the rights that protect our individual freedom cannot be sacrificed in the name of some greater good – such as average utility or the demands of some particular way of life (Rawls 1971: 3–4, 18 and passim). In short, the priority of the right over the good is what justifies above all else the belief that ‘a liberal society must remain neutral on the good life and restrict itself to ensuring that, however they see things, citizens deal fairly with one another and the state deals equally with all’ (Taylor 1994: 57). — 60 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship On the face of it, we might be tempted to think that liberalism, so construed, provides an appropriate formula for democracy in divided societies. Since the liberal state is, in principle, neutral between competing ways of life, it leaves each person free to form their own opinion about the relative value of different ways of life (Barry 2001a: 124, 278). It therefore appears to leave a great deal of room for diversity and difference and hence could help reduce tensions between conflicting ethnic groups. In practice, however, there are grave problems attaching to this formula. First, the state is never neutral in the way that liberals suggest – as we saw above, the state is always culturally patterned to one extent or another. However, in so far as liberals are blind to this fact, their preferred model of the state runs the risk of uncritically accepting the ethnic identity of dominant groups by default (but see MacCormick 1999b: 74–5). Second, since liberalism is characterised by the view that individual citizens and their rights are to have priority, it follows that the state must be organised in ways that reflect this basic principle. But while liberalism has much to say, therefore, about the relationship between citizen and state, its emphasis on the rights of individual citizens precludes it from adequately responding to the claims of ethnic groups. According to John McGarry and Brendan O’Leary, there are good reasons to doubt the relevance, or indeed coherence, of adopting a liberal approach to conflicts between ethno-national groups. As they point out, since liberals maintain that individual citizens are to be treated with equal respect, it follows that liberal states act justly to the extent that they satisfy this prescription. Yet in their view, this is appropriate only where the national character of the state is not itself in question (McGarry and O’Leary 1995b: 857). To illustrate this point, McGarry and O’Leary allude briefly to the argument from liberal unionism as articulated in the case of Northern Ireland. Since their criticisms have important implications not just for liberal unionism but for the claim that liberalism tends, inadvertently or otherwise, to favour dominant ethnic groups, it is important to see what is at issue here. The argument from liberal unionism turns on the claim that citizenship need rely solely on political considerations that are neutral with respect to questions of ethnicity. Accordingly, liberal unionism is characterised by ‘a determined resolve to see social and political life in Northern Ireland placed on a par with that in the rest of Britain – where the rights and freedoms and other benefits of a pluralist society are fully available to all citizens whatever their traditional affiliations’ (Porter 1996: 127). Since liberal unionism is purportedly based on universal liberal rights and values, it cannot therefore be portrayed as just another form of exclusionary ethnic nationalism. On — 61 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies the contrary, the claim is that allegiance to the British state is of a qualitatively different order from allegiance to the narrow, parochial concerns of Irish nationalism. The former is multi-national and multicultural and must be understood in terms of inclusive citizenship rather than substantive (and therefore exclusionary) identity; it expresses the liberal ideal of different nations, different cultures, different religions, living together as equal citizens under one overarching liberal democratic government (Porter 1996: 133). Conceptually, the argument from liberal unionism is entirely specious, based as it is on a wholly unsupportable opposition between a universalistic politics of liberal citizenship versus a particularistic politics of identity (O’Dowd 1998: 79). For one thing, this supposed opposition wilfully ignores the fact that citizenship is, in the first instance, a matter of identity: citizenship distinguishes those who are entitled to the full range of civil and political rights from those who are excluded, either partially or entirely, from such rights. But for another, it also ignores the complex ways in which British citizenship is bound up with the larger national project of maintaining the integrity and sovereignty of the British state within the prevailing international order (O’Dowd 1998: 78; Hall 1999: 47–9). Although this project is both fluid and contested, British citizenship is contingent upon accepting (or being admitted to) the political boundaries of the United Kingdom, and upon recognising the legitimacy of its political institutions, legal system, national symbols, and so on. What liberal unionists fail to recognise, however, is that central to Irish nationalism is an attachment to a different national project with its own distinctive political boundaries, institutions and mode of citizenship. For this reason, it is misguided to think that individual members of the Irish nationalist community in Northern Ireland can be exclusively and permanently facilitated within the British state. At the very least, Irish nationalists require institutional links to the Irish state (as they now have under the terms of 1998 Agreement). But they also require the opportunity to pursue their political goals and aspirations, not just as individual citizens, but also as a distinct national community, even if there can be no guarantee that those goals will ever be achieved. This last point brings us to the second criticism of liberalism mentioned above – that liberalism cannot adequately account for the kinds of claims that (subordinate or subjugated) ethnic groups typically make. As already noted, the whole point of liberal rights and freedoms is to leave people a great a deal of discretion in their individual conduct. As far as practicably possible, the liberal state should refrain from telling people how to lead their lives, or from privileging certain lifestyle choices over certain others. — 62 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship Instead, it should aim to ensure that everyone has the same range of rights and opportunities available to them so that different ways of life can flourish (or decline) on equal terms. This is, of course, the ideal. In reality, people are often disadvantaged because they belong to particular groups or because they share (or do not share) certain ascriptive characteristics. This does not establish a prima-facie claim to remedy or protection in every case, since some disadvantages that we suffer are simply the result of our own free choices rather than discrimination or arbitrary privilege (Barry 2001: 35). Liberals tend to agree, however, that what does establish a legitimate claim to protection is any disadvantage for which the individual is not personally responsible. Importantly, they also agree that while protection may be necessary in order to ensure that the members of disadvantaged groups are treated on an equal footing with everyone else, the intention in the first instance is not to promote those groups per se. For example, anti-discrimination measures which open up careers previously closed to members of a particular ethnic group can be expected to have the effect of promoting the group taken as a whole. From a liberal point of view, however, the intention of such measures remains that of protecting the interests of individual members; if they have other foreseeable effects then well and good, but those effects are not part of the intention of the measure (Barry 2001a: 113). Of course, it must be admitted that the distinction between promotion and protection remains a difficult one to draw in practice. Yet from a liberal perspective, the distinction is nonetheless important for being difficult to apply. To see why, let us consider the standard liberal position on the individual right to freedom of association. In the present context, that right seems to promise much; that promise, however, is deceptive. Freedom of association received its classical formulation in On Liberty. As is well known, Mill argues that individuals should be free to associate with one another for any purpose not involving harm to others. There are only two provisos. The first is that participants should be adults of sound mind. The second is that their participation should come about as a result of their voluntary decision and, by corollary, that they should be free to cease to take part whenever they see fit (Mill 1991 [1859]: 12; Barry 2001a: 148). Now, the crucial point to stress here is that the individual right to freedom of association says nothing about the intrinsic worth of the groups, organisations and communities to which we may belong. For example, the right does not require us to first establish the equal worth of different religions in order to protect our membership in them. This, liberals believe, would be both impossible and unnecessary. Rather, for them, the whole point of the individual right to freedom of association is that it leaves each — 63 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies of us free to form a view about the relative worth of the different religions which are available to us, and to derive whatever benefits membership may bring (Barry 2001a: 278). In terms of the argument of Chapter 2, we might therefore conclude that liberalism leaves it to citizens to decide for themselves whether their ethnicity is primordial in origin or whether it is primarily constructed. Up to a point, this conclusion is correct – but beyond that point, there is reason to think that liberalism cannot make room for and protect those who see their ethnicity in primordialist terms. More specifically, it cannot make room for the kinds of rights that we might normally think can only be ascribed to a group qua group rather than to its members separately (cf. Margalit and Raz 1990). To see what is at issue here, we need to first recognise that some of the things that matter most to us in life make sense only when shared with others. This is true of friendship. Arguably, it is also true of the kinds of interests and aspirations that members of ethnic groups typically share with one another (such as myths and memories, attachment to a common territory, the preservation of a shared language and so forth). Once we accept, however, that some collective interests cannot be understood simply as an aggregation of separate or discrete individual interests, then we must also wonder whether those interests can be properly recognised and secured on the basis of individual rights alone. In particular, we must wonder whether individual rights can be realised or elaborated in ways that could provide sufficient protection for vulnerable groups so as to enable them to participate in political life on equal terms with other ethnic groups. In principle at least, the standard liberal approach has been to suggest that individual rights provide sufficient protection for vulnerable groups, including ethnic groups (Barry 2001a, b; see also Habermas 1994). On this view, it is not necessary to protect groups directly through the provision of special collective rights; rather, they can be protected indirectly by guaranteeing each citizen the same range of rights and liberties, regardless of group membership or identity. There is much to recommend this view. Rights like freedom of association, speech and conscience are typically exercised in common with others. As such, they enable individuals ‘to form and maintain the various groups and associations which constitute civil society, to adapt these groups to changing circumstances, and to promote their views and interests to the wider population’ (Kymlicka 2001: 71–2). Yet while the kinds of protection on offer here may well be acceptable to most groups most of the time, and may well function like collective rights in particular legal jurisdictions, they would fall far short in cases like Northern Ireland where the state has, in the past, failed to fully recognise the Irish — 64 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship nationalist community or its right to act politically as a group that seeks to challenge the constitutional nature of the state. As I have already remarked, Irish nationalists voice their political interests and aspirations as a distinct national community. As such, they have a basic collective interest in protecting their ability to have an equal say in political life. Conceptually, however, it seems that the kinds of rights that could protect that interest cannot be framed as anything other than collective rights. For while individual citizens can have an individual right to freedom of association, they cannot have a right to participate in political life as an ethnic group. Only ethnic groups can possess such a right, given, that is, the not unreasonable assumption that no one can be an ethnic group on their own (Raz 1986: 207). But in a context where the state has historically claimed that individual rights provide sufficient protection for all members of society, it is easy to see why commentators like McGarry and O’Leary have been so sceptical of liberal approaches to the resolution of ethnic conflict. Thus, the problem with the standard liberal approach is that since citizenship rights are held by individuals separately, they do not add up to a collective right, even if they are exercised in ways that mark their bearers off, sociologically, as members of some particular ethnic group (Jones 1999a: 354). To the extent that this is the case, we are therefore compelled to admit that the appeal to individual rights alone is an insufficient means of guaranteeing equal treatment for different ethnic groups. In the absence of such a guarantee, we must seriously doubt whether liberalism really can facilitate the creation of a stronger sense of civic nationalism in divided societies. What is more, we must also doubt its ability to foster peace and stability in the longer run (cf. O’Flynn 2003). As we will now see, a republican conception of the democratic state seems, at least initially, to offer a superior alternative, given, that is, the special place that it reserves for joint deliberation about collective goods in public life. What is more, republicanism does not rely on a claim of state neutrality. On the contrary, it presents a highly determinate, substantive view of what a civic national identity should ideally consist in. The trouble is, however, that such an identity would ask too much of the citizens of a divided society. Once ethnic groups have become deeply politicised – once, in other words, they have become ethnic nations – it is too late to ask them to simply relegate their ethnicity to the private sphere. To think that they should be prepared to make such a move for the sake of some overarching civic ideal is simply to miss the point of what is at issue in a divided society.

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Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Republicanism If one were to associate a single value with the republican tradition of democratic thought, that value would be freedom. True, the liberal tradition is also associated with freedom (or liberty, as it is more usually termed), but there are important differences in how liberals and republicans conceive of that value. The quintessential liberal understanding is negative in kind – as long as citizens stay within their rights, they should be free to pursue their own ends in their own way, without interference on the part other citizens or the state. By contrast, the basic republican understanding of freedom is positive – what matters is not so much freedom from external interference, but more the freedom to participate in a common political enterprise in which citizens are accountable to no authority other than themselves (but see Pettit 1997; Larmore 2003b). Although republicans old and new have conceived of the relationship between freedom and political participation in different ways, two schools of interpretation can be broadly identified: civic humanist republicanism and civic or classical republicanism (Held 1999: 44–5; but see Pettit 1997 for a major contemporary statement of a third alternative). Civic humanist republicans, such as Marsilius, Rousseau and Arendt, stress the intrinsic value of political participation for the development of citizens as human beings. Put simply, participation in political life is constitutive of the good life for human beings, which is why supporters of this view ‘often wax lyrical, in a communitarian vein, about the desirability of the close, homogeneous society that popular participation is often taken to presuppose’ (Pettit 1997: 8). In contrast, civic or classical republicans, such as Machiavelli, Montesquieu and Skinner, tend not to identify freedom with popular participation, or to stress an internal connection between the two, but instead tend to view participation more as a precondition of individual freedom. As such, they tend to think of political participation as instrumentally (rather than intrinsically) valuable, because it is only by participating in political life that political corruption can be kept in abeyance. In what follows, I focus only on the civic humanist version of republicanism, because that version (which I will simply refer to henceforth as ‘republicanism’) has arguably had the stronger influence on the development of deliberative democratic theory. In particular, it has had a significant impact on Habermas’s thinking, as well as on the thinking of those who take their lead from him (Habermas 1996, 1998b). In response to what they see as failures attaching contemporary liberal democracies – including the failure of liberal elitism to respond adequately to questions of social justice, the alarming rise of political apathy among voters, and the — 66 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship atrophying of social solidarity – those thinkers have looked to republican notions of popular participation, democratic freedom and political community for inspiration. They have not, however, simply accepted those notions uncritically, but have instead sought to adapt them so that they might fit better with the fact that citizens typically exhibit a reasonable pluralism in their values. To explain what I mean by this, a useful point of departure is Charles Taylor’s (civic humanist) republicanism (1995; cf. Sandel 1996). Taylor is highly critical of the sort of liberal individualist view that I outlined above. But his arguments are germane to the topic of this book more generally in that they stress the close connection between democratic deliberation and the creation of a stronger sense of common national identity among citizens. According to Taylor, liberals do not regard the institutions of the democratic state as valuable in themselves but as collective instruments to be used in the pursuit of private ends and purposes. At a deeper level, this is because the status of the liberal citizen is not determined through the democratic process, but is secured by means of individual rights that are given prior to any particular social practices or political conventions. Significantly, Taylor argues that it is only possible to make sense of this ‘primacy-of-right thesis’ by reference to a particular ontological view that has gained considerable sway over our contemporary imagination. He refers to this ontology as ‘atomism’ and describes it as a view according to which our personal identity is understood to be independent of the particular ends or values that we have chosen (Taylor 1985b; see also Sandel 1982). Otherwise put, atomism rejects the Aristotelian view that man is a political animal, and instead affirms the status of the individual prior to all communal bonds. Human existence cannot plausibly be understood within the bounds of this atomist ontology. We cannot plausibly be conceived as atomised individuals who enter into society purely for reasons of mutual convenience. Nor is it plausible to think that our identity could exist independently of, or in abstraction from, the kinds of social relationships that make us the very people that we are. On the contrary, we can only acquire a sense our own identity by participating in a multiplicity of irreducibly social relationships and activities, including families, cultures, religious groups, sporting associations, political parties and so forth. Thus, while it is always possible to step back from particular relationships in order to critically evaluate them, the fact remains that our individual identity is fundamentally a social construct. In this sense, human existence must necessarily presuppose a holist, as opposed to atomist, ontology (Taylor 1989: 28–9; cf. Kymlicka 1995: 82–93; MacCormick 1999b: 68–9). — 67 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies As we saw in the last section, any political outlook that denied the relevance of social context to individual identity would struggle to say anything meaningful about the kinds of ethnic division that beset divided societies, other than to wish those divisions away or to ignore them altogether. In particular, it could not account for the kinds of group-based claim that have been at the heart of so many ethno-national disputes, including demands for guaranteed representation, legislative vetoes, territorial devolution and federalism, functional autonomy, language rights, and even secession or partition. I will have more to say about such demands in later chapters. For now, though, I want to explore Taylor’s claim that, because liberal individualism is premised on an implausible atomist ontology, it cannot account for a distinction that he takes to be central to a proper (namely republican) understanding of individual freedom: the distinction between matters that are good for me and for you, on the one hand, and those that are good for us, on the other (Taylor 1995: 189–92). Taylor begins by asking us to think about what is involved when we strike up an ordinary, everyday conversation with another person. When I remark to my neighbour, ‘What fine weather we’re having today’, the weather is no longer simply a matter for me or for her but is now a matter for us. What we are asked to recognise here is that this shared experience cannot be reduced to an aggregation of monological responses, perceptions or opinions. There is something more involved, something intimate but at the same time something public, in ‘the dialogical condition where things are for us’ (Taylor 1995: 189). Taylor maintains, moreover, that this monological/dialogical distinction is just as evident in relation to social goods: some goods have value for me and for you, and some goods essentially have value for us. As such, he distinguishes between goods that are contingent or ‘convergent’ and those which are ‘irreducibly social’ (cf. Raz 1986: 198–203). Convergent goods are individual in nature since there is little sense that the goods so valued are essentially good for us. For example, my security is as good for me as my neighbour’s is for her, and so we agree to contribute towards a police force that serves to protect everybody. Yet the value of the good in question (my personal security) would be the same even if I were able to secure it on my own. This is because the benefit derived from an effective police force serves individual interests that merely happen to converge. By contrast, what the phrase ‘irreducibly social goods’ captures is a category of goods whose value consists in the fact that they are necessarily shared by two or more people. For example, when two people are friends, their friendship is a good that is shared in common. It would make little sense, however, to say that their friendship amounts to nothing — 68 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship more than the aggregation of two separate goods since the good of genuine friendship is always more than the sum of its individual parts (Taylor 1995: 189–92). The general point to take from this last example is that some goods can only be appreciated when they are understood as shared. The more particular point, however, is one that is of crucial importance for understanding the role that public deliberation has to play in creating a stronger sense of common national identity among members of a divided society. Taylor contends that social goods play a pivotal role in all functioning democracies, a contention that is central to the republican tradition as he interprets it. Not only does this tradition place great value on ‘public things’ (res publica) such as public institutions, national symbols, communal spaces, and the like, but also holds that goods of this sort can only be sustained and reproduced if the citizens continue to act and deliberate on them together. This sense of attachment to public things is intimately bound up with the ethos of democratic self-government; individuals feel a special attachment to the goods of their society, partly because they have all played a part in shaping and maintaining them. In turn, this sense of attachment provides further motivation for ongoing participation, establishing a virtuous circle between the two: participation promotes attachment, which promotes further participation, which strengthens attachment, and so on (Abbey 2000: 119–20). For Taylor, then, the bond of solidarity that I feel with my compatriots in a functioning republican democracy is based on a sense of shared fate, where the sharing is itself of irreducible value. This, he insists, is what gives this bond its special significance, what makes my ties with others in this particular common enterprise peculiarly binding, and what animates and sustains our shared sense of civic patriotism or allegiance. It is what motivates us to comply with the inevitable burdens that come with living in a self-governing society, and to accept that, as far as democratic politics is concerned, it is not simply the winning that counts, but also the taking part. This republican model of democracy is clearly quite unlike the model advocated by liberals. Civic republicanism requires citizens to play their part in shaping the future direction and identity of their society through public deliberation about social goods. Public deliberation of this sort is framed in terms of ‘we-identities as against merely convergent I-identities’ (Taylor 1995: 192; cf. Weale 2005, chapter 5) and hence enables citizens to feel that they are all engaged in a common political enterprise. Public deliberation is not merely a means to an end, however, but is itself constitutive of a common way of life. A republican state is not a neutral — 69 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies state. On the contrary, its civic character will reflect how the citizens see themselves and their history, how they think about the values that are embedded in their political culture, how they understand their place in international society and so forth (Habermas 1998b: 242, 244). Thus, as Charles Larmore concludes, republicans who adhere to such a view ‘tend to identify freedom with self-rule because they regard political life, in which common purposes are discussed, decided and acted upon, as the primary domain in which the virtues can be exercised and the human good achieved’ (Larmore 2003b: 101). And yet, despite its promise, we must doubt whether republicanism really would fare all that much better with respect to the task of creating a stronger sense of common national identity among citizens of a divided society. In practice, a republican approach would, in all likelihood, demand too much of the citizens of a divided society. There are at least three related reasons why this should be the case. First, republicans hold that citizens are free to the extent that they can participate in a joint political enterprise in which they are accountable to no authority other than themselves. As such, political authority is understood as indivisible – it rests with the people in its entirety (Held 1999: 43). Yet by insisting on the indivisibility of political authority, republicanism requires citizens to forego many of the institutional guarantees that are often considered essential to democratic transitions. It rules out the provision of federal or consociational structures that could enable ethnic groups to govern their own affairs, reserved seats in parliament for vulnerable ethnic groups, the use of more than one language in public administration, state funding for religious schools and so forth. Since those provisions enable citizens to feel more confident about the transition to democracy, it is implausible to think that they would be willing to give them up, simply on the say so of republicans. Consequently, we must wonder whether republicanism could gain any real purchase in divided societies, or contribute to the creation of a stronger sense of civic nationality among its citizens. Second, as noted above, republicans conceive of political life as the medium through which the virtues can be exercised and the human good achieved. On this view, leading the good life involves a willingness to set the common good above one’s own interest or, by extension, the interest of one’s own ethnic group (see Held 1999: 43). Republicans therefore claim that citizens should draw a clear line between matters that are of public concern because they affect everyone, and those that are of private concern because they affect only oneself. In political life, citizens ought to engage with one another as citizens and as citizens only – they should engage with one another as collective actors seeking to foster, sustain and express a — 70 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship common civic bond that transcends their more particular ethnic affiliations (see Habermas 1998b: 240). This claim is deeply problematic. For one thing, it is tantamount to requiring ethnic groups to simply bracket off the very things that divide them. But more than this, it requires their members to subordinate important facets of their personal identity to the demands of a common, undifferentiated citizenship. A normative outlook of this sort has no truck with primordialism, or, more accurately, with primordialist perceptions of the value of ethnicity. Since citizens are bound by no authority other than themselves, ethnic affiliations are viewed as little more than irrational, archaic throwbacks that have no place in modern civic life (McGarry and O’Leary 2005: 266–8). Such reasoning has led republican states to repress ethnic groups, often with deadly force. Turkey’s treatment of its Armenian and Kurdish minorities is a case in point. However, France, Spain and the United States are also far from innocent (Keating 2001). Which brings us to our third and final point. Although citizens may delegate roles and functions to public officials, and may create a constitution within which government has to operate, they remain none the less sovereign (cf. Pettit 1996: 172–82). Yet as Isaiah Berlin pointed out in his famous critique of Rousseau, the danger with this way of framing the relation between citizen and state is that there is ultimately nothing to stop tyrannical majorities from imposing their will upon vulnerable minorities (Berlin 1969: 162–4; Held 1999: 61–2). Once we allow that the citizens are always sovereign, that political authority is always theirs and theirs alone, there can be no higher authority to which minorities can appeal in order to have their grievances addressed. And so it is hard to see what protections republicanism offers to vulnerable ethnic minorities, once, that is, we rule out the possibility of group-based provisions and protections. Of course, it might be responded that although republicans cannot provide for group-specific rights and institutions (since that would involve recognising the saliency of ethnicity to political life), there is nothing to stop them from providing for super-majorities which could force dominant groups to take account of the interests of minorities. It is hard to see, however, how republicans could justify such a claim. One possible way would be to make a Rousseavian argument to the effect that, because majority decisions are more likely to be correct than minority decisions, super-majorities enhance the quality of democratic decisions. However, this response will not do because there is no reason to opt for a super-majority rule rather than, say, a unanimity rule. Ultimately, the only plausible justification for super-majority rules is to protect minority groups. But since citizens are meant to leave their ethnicity at the door before they enter into — 71 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies a public deliberative forum, such a conclusion cannot be arrived at from within purely republican premises. This would hardly be acceptable to many of the citizens of a divided society. In summary, then, there are good reasons to doubt the appropriateness of liberalism and republicanism as normative approaches to democracy in divided societies. Liberal neutrality is a false and even undesirable hope, whereas liberal atomism precludes its defenders from accounting for the kinds of group rights that ethnic groups typically claim. By contrast, republicanism does reserve a special place for public deliberation about the civic character of society. However, in requiring citizens to relegate their ethnicity to the private sphere, it fails to adequately respond to the sources of national division. But what of deliberative democracy? Can it really fare all that much better with respect to the kinds of challenges that divided societies present? In the next section I argue that it can. The deliberative alternative The case for the superiority of deliberative democracy can be summarised up front as follows. With liberalism, deliberative democracy affirms the need to protect citizens from tyrannical majorities. Yet unlike liberalism, it recognises the need to ascribe rights to groups qua groups rather than to their members severally. With republicanism, deliberative democracy affirms the importance of public deliberation about the civic character of society. Yet unlike republicanism, it places the emphasis on the procedures by which that character is debated and shaped rather than on any one substantive vision of it. Of course, stating the case for deliberative democracy is one thing, justifying it is another matter entirely. In what follows, I therefore structure my argument around two basic propositions – one, that deliberative democracy is not, in principle, subject to the failure to strike an acceptable balance between individual and group rights (the more general theory of democracy that I presented in Chapter 2 can support this claim); and two, that deliberative democratic procedures can provide a sufficient focus for citizens’ common national allegiance (the more general account of the relationship between ethnic and civic identity presented in this and the last chapter can support this claim). I consider each of these propositions in turn. Ethnic groups in conflict typically fear for their most vital interests – for their homeland, language and religion, and often for their physical survival. Any normative theory that is unable (liberalism) or unwilling (republicanism) to protect those interests directly will clearly be found wanting. Yet as we saw in Chapter 2, the protection of collective interests is by no means a — 72 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship straightforward matter. There is always the danger that individual and group rights will conflict. Indeed, in divided societies, where the primary emphasis is often on the need to stop groups from killing one another, group rights may increasingly come to trump individual rights (see Jones 1995: 186). Under those kinds of conditions, there may be no alternative but to allow this rights imbalance to persist, however much particular individuals may suffer as a result. Yet it must always be remembered that the more that group rights win out over individual rights, the less likely it is that crosscutting interests and identities will emerge. Since cross-cutting identities can be central to the creation of a common civic nationality (Lipset 1960), the failure to balance individual and group rights can potentially threaten the social cohesion that is necessary if the transition to democracy is to succeed in the longer run. It is therefore imperative to try to strike an appropriate balance between individual and group rights. One way of proceeding is as follows. Individual rights are normally grounded in the view that individual persons are intrinsically valuable. However, the claim is sometimes made that because groups can also be intrinsically valuable, they are entitled to bear rights in the same, irreducible way that an individual person can bear individual rights (Walzer 1983; Taylor 1994). The trouble with this approach, however, is that if we chose to ground group rights in this way, they may well conflict with the rights of individual members (Habermas 1994: 110–11). Fortunately, there is another way of thinking about group rights that avoids this possibility. As Peter Jones explains: if we accept that individuals can have rights that derive from their individual interests, it is hard to see how we can resist the logic of the [claim] that groups of individuals can hold rights jointly that derive from their shared interests. (1999a: 366) If individual interests can give rise to individual rights, then, by the same token, shared interests can give rise to group rights. Since both kinds of rights are concerned primarily to protect the interests of individuals rather than the groups to which they belong, the two can be – indeed ought to be – mutually compatible. But more than this, the underlying assumption that only individuals need be considered intrinsically valuable provides a single moral ground upon which to decide what to do, should the two conflict (see also Raz 1986: 107, 209). And while in practice conflicts between individual and collective rights will inevitably continue to occur, it is surely better that we appeal to one moral standard than bring two potentially incompatible standards into play. — 73 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Crucially, this alternative justification for group rights is consistent with the general account of democracy that I provided in Chapter 2. There, I argued that the values of intrinsic equality (as ascribed to individuals) and personal autonomy (again, ascribed to individuals) constitute the moral core of democracy. This alternative justification clearly satisfies the value of intrinsic equality. But it also satisfies the value of personal autonomy. Since the attribution of a group right depends on the existence of a shared interest, anyone who does not share the interest should not be bound by the right. As such, individuals are free to judge for themselves how their interest is best served – whether by joining with the collective or by going it alone (Jones 1999b: 83–6). And so it is possible to bring group rights up to scratch and make them an acceptable part of the theory of democracy. In other words, group rights can be held consistent with the view that all those who are bound by a decision should have an equal say in its making. Now, as I argued in Chapter 2, deliberative democracy is one way of realising that basic democratic claim. Specifically, deliberative democracy conceives of the values of intrinsic equality and personal autonomy in terms of two procedural requirements, reciprocity and publicity respectively. From this it follows that deliberate democracy need not be subject to the failure to strike an acceptable balance between individual and group rights in a divided society. Of course, what happens in practice may be an entirely different matter. But, in principle, as long as it can be shown that group rights do not transgress the values of intrinsic equality and personal autonomy, they need not transgress the requirements of reciprocity and publicity either. On the contrary, they can enable groups that might otherwise be marginalised to have an equal and effective say in public deliberation, but without denying individual members the right to shape their own relation to the polity as they see fit. Let us turn now to the proposition that deliberative democratic procedures such as reciprocity and publicity can provide a sufficient focus for citizens’ sense of common national identity. As we have seen, the civic character of a republican democracy will reflect how the citizens see their common aims and values. Deliberative democracy rejects this substantive approach on the grounds that what are often presented as common aims and values will often be biased towards particular ethnic groups. In France and the United States, for example, national holidays that coincide with Christian festivals favour one kind of religious believer over another, as well as over secularists. Deliberative democracy also rejects this substantive approach on the grounds that, although divided societies are, almost by definition, highly politicised, the distinction between state and society remains vitally important to the health of a democratic society. An independent civil society can bring — 74 —

Deliberating National Identity and Citizenship pressure to bear on political representatives and other public officials, and hence prevent the unjustified domination of political and private life by particular ethnic groups (Habermas 1996: 359–77; Fraser 1992). In this sense, an independent civil society can help in striking a balance between the need to respect alternative ethnic identities and the need to create an overarching sense of civic identity centred on the state (I consider this issue at greater length in Chapter 7). Thus, according to the deliberative view that I advocate, it is enough that citizens share a common civic allegiance to the rules and procedures by which democratic decisions are arrived at rather than to some thicker, substantive account of civic identity. Once again, those rules and procedures will not be neutral, since they will inevitably be coloured by historical experience. Yet although the line between substance and procedure can never be drawn exactly, that line nevertheless allows us to retain a meaningful, analytic distinction between the internal diversity within a society, as represented by a wide variety of social groups, and a shared political culture that offers a basis for equal citizenship to all individual members, irrespective of their more particular affiliations. Habermas confirms this point: It is crucial to maintain the distinction between the two levels of integration. If they are collapsed into one another, the majority culture will usurp state prerogatives at the expense of the equal rights of other cultural forms of life and violate their claim to mutual recognition. (1994: 133–4) As I have stressed at various points of this chapter, the identity of dominant communities will inevitably impress itself upon the institutions of state. But, by emphasising the procedural aspects of democracy, we at least can point to standards that inhibit them from subsuming the state under its own identity, as can all too easily happen under a substantive conception. Viewed in this way, the whole point of proceduralism is ‘to sharpen sensitivity to the diversity and integrity of forms of life’ co-existing within a single multi-ethnic society in the hope of fostering the transition to democracy (Habermas 1994: 134). Even if we were to allow that, in theory, the rules and procedures by which a democratic society operates can be the focus of citizens’ common political allegiance, it might nevertheless be objected that, in practice, that allegiance would be not be thick enough to sustain the members of a divided society through the many trials and tribulations that they will unavoidably face in making the transition to democracy. In other words, the question remains as to whether a procedural view would be thick enough to ground, bolster and sustain a sense of common national identity in divided societies. — 75 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Contemporary republicans like Michael Sandel (1996), Charles Taylor (1995b) and Cass Sunstein (2001) have doubted that it can. Sandel, in particular, claims that America’s most prominent politicians and judges have neglected serious social problems while crafting a ‘procedural republic’ in liberal terms. While liberals on the left promise an idealised welfare state, and those on the right clamour for a laissez-faire utopia, neither can deliver on their promises of personal self-fulfilment. Since citizens in the procedural republic have no concrete vision of human virtue or the common good at which to aim, they are unable to unify behind common political endeavours, and hence are buffeted by social forces beyond their control. As far as the United States is concerned, Sandel may well be correct; that particular country may well require a thicker sense of common civic purpose if it is to succeed in the longer run. Yet although the United States is not without its divisions, some of which are very deep indeed, its democracy is secure for now. Under such conditions, it is possible, indeed appropriate, to debate the substantive content of a society’s civic identity. However, in divided societies struggling to make the transition to democracy, conditions can be very different. In countries like Sudan, Burundi and Iraq, the sense of common civic allegiance that citizens share may be so attenuated by the effects of violent conflict that they may not be able to share anything more than the thinnest of procedural allegiances to the state. The beauty of a procedural approach, however, is twofold. First, if procedures manage to survive over time (something which, in divided societies, is far from guaranteed), they may develop into something stronger. They may, that is, come to take on a thicker civic character; indeed, they may even come to take on thicker ethnic overtones, if that is how people eventually come to see themselves. Second, the fact that a procedural approach has such flexibility, the fact that it can move back and forth between ethnic and civic nationalisms, means that it is, in principle, well placed with respect to the crucial task of negotiating a balance between citizens’ ethnic and civic allegiances in divided societies. This, I have argued, is crucial to their success as democratic states. The point, therefore, is that it is up to citizens themselves to decide what the civic character of the state ought to look like, how its institutions ought to be constructed, and what kinds of shared public goods they consider important. Philosophers can aid in discussions by clarifying the procedural conditions under which those kinds of decisions ought to be deliberated upon and decided, but they are no better placed with respect to the actual content of such decisions than anyone else. With this much in mind, let us now turn to a fuller consideration of the two requirements, reciprocity and publicity, that characterise a deliberative view of the democratic process. — 76 —

Chapter 4

The Requirement of Reciprocity

The requirement of reciprocity is a very familiar idea. In its most basic form, it admonishes us to ‘do unto others as we would have them do unto us’. Accordingly, we should be willing to treat people kindly if that is how we would like them to treat us in return. But by the same token, if someone treats us unkindly, then reciprocity is often taken to mean that we should treat that person in like terms. Of course, this latter kind of reasoning can, and very often does, get people into all sorts of trouble. One thinks, for example, of the nuclear arms race or international trade wars, where threats of mutual destruction or financial embargoes determine the direction and character of international relations (Goodin 1992: 21–2). And naturally one also thinks of the countless examples of internecine, tit-for-tat retaliations between conflicting ethnic groups. The requirement of reciprocity can therefore be understood as a force for good relations or as a force for bad relations. As a positive force, deliberative democrats have interpreted it to mean that since democratic decisions are mutually binding, citizens and representatives should aspire to a kind of political reasoning that is mutually justifiable (Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 53 and passim). More specifically, they should be prepared to justify their political proposals by providing reasons that others might reasonably be expected to accept (Rawls 1996, 1999; Habermas 1996, 1998b). Political decisions that fail to treat citizens equally will therefore be precluded, since it is difficult to imagine reasons that could both satisfy the principle of reciprocity and justify the arbitrary privileging of certain individuals or groups over certain others. The purpose, then, of this chapter is to explore the requirement of reciprocity in greater detail, especially with respect to its implications for democracy in divided societies. More specifically, its purpose is to explore this requirement with respect to the task of creating the kinds of shareable goods that could potentially lead citizens to experience a stronger sense of common national identity. At first sight, of course, it might be thought that — 77 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies conditions in a great many divided societies are such that it makes little sense to think that reciprocity could offer meaningful practical guidance. After all, since the idea that people can reason their way to agreement on contentious political issues can seem hopelessly idealistic at the best of times, it is hardly to be expected that the members of a divided society might be able to talk themselves into sharing a stronger sense of common national identity. To put the point more directly, if a little more generally, the simple fact of the matter is that reasonable people can often have very different interests. But at a deeper level still, those interests can be grounded in very different underlying values. And so, while it may be possible for them to deliberate their way past the first (interests), the second (values) are often not amenable to the give and take of reasons (McCarthy 1998). This is a serious objection. In fact, it is quite possibly the most basic, and the most serious, objection levelled at the deliberative democratic enterprise as a whole. It helps explain why, although a great many commentators are sympathetically disposed towards this enterprise, they nevertheless tend to regard it as amounting to little more than a wholly impractical, if not altogether utopian, philosophical ideal. Despite the undoubted gravity of this objection, and the scepticism that typically surrounds it, I maintain that it can be met. This present chapter begins this case. In it, I start by comparing and contrasting the requirement of reciprocity with three alternative methods by which political disagreements might potentially be resolved: force, bargaining and voting. Although each of those alternative forms certainly has its place within a democratic process, I argue that reciprocity is nevertheless essential to dealing with the problems that divided societies typically face. I then consider how, by constraining the kinds of reasons that might be advanced for or against a proposed law or public policy, reciprocity can help express our equal membership in the polity. In so doing, it can aid in creating the kinds of shareable goods that could provide the basis for a stronger sense of common national identity. Finally, I explore the content of the reasons that might meet this requirement. The approach that I take is basically Rawlsian in that it stresses the importance of appealing to general political principles and values when justifying proposals. Although this approach is open to the objection that the appeal to general principles is impracticable, I contend that it is both plausible and preferable. To focus the attention of citizens on common principles, rather than expecting them to negotiate over more particular values, is consistent with the logic that typically underpins peace agreements. There would, after all, be little chance of meaningful dialogue if we were to demand that Palestinians forgo their commitment to an independent state, Southern Sudanese renounce their Christianity, or Quebeckers their Francophone culture. — 78 —

The Requirement of Reciprocity What is reciprocity? In the most general sense, reciprocity can be defined as a method of resolving political disagreements, or at least of narrowing the gap between competing political perspectives. Naturally, this definition does not tell us very much since there are an indeterminate number ways in which political disagreements might be resolved or attenuated. However, it does at least suggest that if we want to figure out what exactly reciprocity is, or what distinctive role it might play within a theory of deliberative democracy, then a useful starting point is to compare and contrast it with a number of alternative decision-making methods or procedures. In what follows, I will therefore discuss three possible alternatives, namely force, bargaining and voting, that are particularly well suited to challenge of explaining what is both so distinctive and so appealing about a deliberative interpretation of the requirement of reciprocity. Reciprocity versus combat Given that this book is concerned with divided societies, the first and arguably most obvious way of settling political disagreements between conflicting ethnic groups is through combat – or as Brian Barry puts it, ‘by one side forcing the other into submission by fighting it, starving it and so on, in short by making it preferable to the other side to give in rather than to resist’ (1990: 85). As Barry points out, this method of resolving disagreement is rarely ever used on its own, since ‘one or both sides will usually attempt to achieve its ends by threatening to impose sanctions rather than by imposing them’ (1990: 85–6). Moreover, in many cases the two sides to a conflict may even be willing to deliberate with one another, or with third-party intermediaries, about the merits of their respective positions. But as cases like Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq all too clearly illustrate, even where sanctions are put in place and where (some) deliberation is conducted, force is often the decisive factor in resolving political disagreements. Quite simply, the weaker party to a conflict is often compelled to submit to the will of the stronger. By contrast, reciprocity turns not on strength of force but on the strength of argument. It requires people to resolve their disagreements through a process of public reasoning and discussion that aims at jointly determined decisions. By requiring citizens (or, more usually, their representatives) to justify political decisions to those who are bound by them, reciprocity gives expression to the basic democratic idea that individuals have independent moral standing and hence are valuable in their own right. Accordingly, — 79 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies deliberative democracy calls for the establishment of deliberative forums that are, as far as practicably possible, free from coercion, where balanced arguments for and against proposals can be advanced, where access to good information enabling those arguments to be assessed is freely available, and where there is a sufficient degree of independence from relative social and economic position (Ackerman and Fishkin 2004: 180–4). Although this is the ideal, the real world positions from which people actually deliberate are rarely quite so symmetrical. But even where they are symmetrical, the proclivity of (many) politicians to disrupt that symmetry in ways that are favourable to themselves, or to those they represent, cannot easily be gainsaid. Consequently, the objection is that although reciprocity may be a normatively attractive ideal, the reality is that politics is all about power – by which I mean the capacity of one person or group to shape and control the terms of political debate in ways that enable them to secure their desired outcomes without regard to anyone else’s interests or underlying values (Goodin 1996: 15–16). Ian Shapiro, for example, has criticised the deliberative enterprise on such grounds, arguing that the principal obstacle to democratic deliberation arises not so much from lack of will on the part of people with differing political convictions to deliberate in ways that might minimise their differences, but from the decisions of powerful players who make it their business to shape the terms of public debate in their own interest (Shapiro 1999: 34). Yet although everyday experience is such that it is often natural to think that politics is all about power – its pursuit and, for those who already have it, its aggrandisement – it must also be remembered that much of what goes on in political life depends on the particular kinds of institutions that are put in place. As we will see in more detail in Chapter 7, we need not accept the view that politics is all about power without first considering the kinds of constraints, incentives and rewards that might make its pursuit a less attractive option. Even if this last point is accepted in good faith, we might nevertheless wonder what all the fuss is about. All models of democracy aim to counteract the fact that power can have seriously distorting effects on the egalitarian character of any given political outcome. Even the elitist form of democracy associated with Schumpeter can be interpreted in such a way. As Shapiro argues, ‘Schumpeter’s account was a radical departure in that he thought that rather than succumb to power’, it could be controlled ‘by turning it into an object of [periodic] electoral competition’ (Shapiro 2003: 57). What is more, it is hard to imagine any form of democracy that did not make at least some space for deliberation (Weale 1999: 37). Standing orders need to be devised, agendas need to be set, bargains need to be struck and votes need to be taken. All of these activities involve deliberation in — 80 —

The Requirement of Reciprocity one form or another; moreover, it would be hard to imagine a democratic system that did not include such activities in some shape or form. So what is it that marks out the practice of deliberative democracy in general and the requirement of reciprocity in particular as special? To answer this question, let us now turn to the second of our alternatives, bargaining. Reciprocity and bargaining When one party seeks to enter into a bargain with another, both seek resolve their differences by securing the most favourable terms of exchange for themselves. Assuming that both parties are equally free to walk away from the negotiation table, a bargain will be reached only when both of them consider it advantageous to do so (cf. Barry 1990: 86). If one or other of the parties can hold out for a better deal – if they are unable to resolve their differences over who should have what – then both sides will be simply left where they were before. In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith provided the following eloquent description of what it might mean to resolve a disagreement in such a way: Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their selflove, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages (Smith 1976 [1776]: 26–7). In claiming that those who offer a bargain speak not of their own necessities but of the other’s advantage, Smith draws our attention to the fact that when we bargain with other people, we do not normally try to convince them of the merits of our position, or of the shortcomings of their own, but of the advantages that will accrue to them if they accept the terms that we are offering (Barry 1990: 87; Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 64). There is certainly nothing wrong with this way of doing things, and certainly nothing unusual, as Smith makes amply clear. But despite the ubiquity of bargaining, there are, I contend, better ways of doing things, at least as far as democratic decisions are concerned. As I mentioned above, the basic intuition underpinning a deliberative understanding of the requirement of reciprocity is that, because democratic decisions are mutually binding, we owe it to one another to try to find — 81 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies mutually acceptable reasons for those decisions. Naturally enough, this means that citizens (or more usually their representatives) should be willing not just to offer reasons as to why a particular decision should go one way rather than another, but should be equally willing to listen to, and seriously reflect upon, opposing views. There would, after all, be little point in engaging in a process of reasoning and discussion with other people unless we were, in principle, willing to accept that their arguments might turn out to be more compelling than our own – or at least that certain aspects of their position might need to be factored into any decision that results, even while retaining our own view of what is best (Bellamy 1999: 102). In this sense, decisions reflect not simply citizens’ prior preferences and interests, but the judgements that they make after having reflected on the arguments made on all sides. At a deeper level still, they reflect our willingness to show respect for, or an openness to, the merits of other people’s values, even if those values can never fully be our own. Thus, in keeping with the distinction between ‘I-identities’ and ‘we-identities’ introduced in Chapter 3, the requirement of reciprocity admonishes citizens and representatives to reflect seriously upon how binding decisions will affect us (the citizen body) rather than just me (as an individual). By contrast, bargaining, despite the fact that it will normally involve some degree of deliberation, leaves the relative merits of people’s preferences untested and, at bottom, reduces decision making purely to a process of preference aggregation. To quote Barry once again, an agreement reached by means of bargaining merely involves a recognition on the part of each side that it cannot hope to get more of what it wants than is represented by the settlement. But each side retains its wish for the solution it originally entertained and if it had the power to achieve that solution it would use it to that end. (Barry 1990: 87) Of course, one might still wonder why it is better to prioritise deliberation over bargaining. Many successful democracies, including the United Kingdom and the United States, do not place any great weight on the need for reciprocity in decision making, but instead stress the considerable gains in efficiency that attach to competitive elections and procedures such as logrolling that treat votes as commodities to be bought and sold. Beyond the question of efficiency there is also the question of what it is reasonable to expect of the citizens of a divided society, many of whom may still be deeply fearful and suspicious of one another. Advocates of the consociational model, for example, argue that the best way to build a stable democracy is not through widespread public consultation and debate, since that could — 82 —

The Requirement of Reciprocity actually stagnate the political process or even deepen divisions. Rather, a stable democracy is best constructed, first, by leaving the members of ethnic groups to their own affairs where that is possible and widely sought, and, second, by enabling ethnic-group elites to have as free a free hand as possible with respect to the challenges of making bargains that can afterwards gain widespread support (O’Leary 2005b: 11). To the extent that consociations can enable elites to reach bargains that advance the cause of democracy, we might therefore wonder why deliberative democrats should want to make so much of the requirement of reciprocity. There is, however, good reason to think that reciprocity should not be discounted quite so quickly. A consociation is the product of a peace agreement or accord. Such agreements are themselves negotiated bargains that often succeed only because their signatories agree to put certain contentious issues to one side, to be addressed at some later point (O’Leary 1999: 91–2). There are, however, at least three serious difficulties attaching to bargains of this sort, each of which demonstrates why those who advocate consociations should aim to make greater room for the requirement of reciprocity within their institutional prescriptions. First, consociationalists argue that their prescriptions provide elites with a genuine stake in the political system, and hence afford them the opportunity to transform that system from within (McGarry and O’Leary 2004a: 25). Over time, this may give them the confidence to tackle contentious issues that they were unable to address at an earlier point. In principle, there is nothing to stop elites from bargaining over such issues when the time is right. Yet it must also be remembered that those issues will normally have been set aside in the first instance precisely because the values they bring into play are non-negotiable. Values cannot be traded in the way interests can be logrolled. But values can sometimes be amenable to reason, especially when the reasons offered express our equal standing in the polity. In other words, when it comes to fundamental issues of value, such as the place of religion in public life, what is required is reciprocity – for it is only this requirement that can enable the citizens of divided societies to build joint solutions to common problems, however difficult that task may be. Second, those issues that are set aside for the sake of arriving at a peace agreement do not lie dormant until such a time as elites feel confident and secure enough to deal with them (or until such a time that they think their supporters will be willing to accept the need for compromise on them). On the contrary, those issues may cast an air of uncertainty over political life in general, and may eventually serve to undermine the transition to democracy. For example, uncertainty over the nature of a police force, fiscal redistributions between federated entities, or doubts concerning the future — 83 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies constitutional status of a political entity can leave citizens with a real sense of fear as to what the future may or may not hold. Fear makes any future bargains even more remote. Moreover, it can play into the hands of those on the political extremes who, in order to gain power for themselves, are wont to engage in scaremongering within their own group or community (see, for example, Barry 1975a; Stedman 1997). Thus, although bargaining certainly has its place, reciprocity should nevertheless be made a central focus of any consociational enterprise so that mutual fear might be replaced by mutual respect. Third, once issues have been set aside, representatives no longer have to take responsibility for them, either individually or as a collective body. Given the importance of those issues in the minds of ordinary people, the risk is that a peace process cannot be sustained through elite bargaining alone, but will instead rely on the support of third-party actors or external intermediaries such as the European Union, NATO, the African Union, the League of Arab States or the United Nations. Thus, a further risk that attaches to bargaining in divided societies is that it may turn a divided society into a client state, whereby the contending ethnic groups look to outside powers for support rather than take responsibility for their own internal problems. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Sudan and Kashmir provide more than enough evidence for the possibility of such a phenomenon (see, for example, Wilson and Wilford 2003; Roeder and Rothchild 2005; Zahar 2005). What follows, therefore, is that, although it is often the case that a peace agreement will start as a bargain, the important role that reciprocity can play in driving a peace process forward should not be lost from sight. On the contrary, it should be made a primary focus of public policy from the outset of a peace agreement, or at least as near to the outset as is practicably possible. The classic consociational model, with its emphasis on elite bargaining, does seem to come up short in this respect. However, as we will see in Chapter 7, there is reason to think that consociational institutions can be reformed in ways that better meet the requirement of reciprocity. Once we move from a literal definition of the grand coalition to a definition that stresses the importance of meaningful, cross-community decision making (O’Leary 2005b), the space for opposition that this creates can help shift the emphasis from bargaining to deliberation proper. Reciprocity and voting I have argued that although bargaining may certainly have its place in the political life of a divided society, it is of only qualified value with respect to — 84 —

The Requirement of Reciprocity the overarching task of creating a stronger sense of civic identity among its citizens. Bargaining does not directly address the merits of different arguments and proposals, but simply seeks to find a workable balance between them. It does not encourage citizens and representatives to try to see things as others see them or to try to take an enlarged view of the common difficulties that they face. By contrast, the requirement of reciprocity does encourage citizens to see themselves as engaged in a common political enterprise. In requiring them to search for mutually justifiable reasons, it not only seeks to express their standing as political equals, but to build solutions to political problems that are more than the sum of their parts. In this sense, reciprocity helps construct shareable goods that form the basis of a common civic nationality. One obvious objection, however, is that although the requirement of reciprocity may well be a normatively attractive ideal, it is simply implausible to think that it will actually result in consensus on anything like a consistent basis (see, for example, Shapiro 2003: 10, 2005). The reason why is obvious enough. As I suggested in Chapter 2, the circumstances of politics are such that elected representatives will normally have only a limited amount of time to discuss any given issue. But even if they had unlimited time at their disposal, the fact that the citizens they represent will often adhere to very different, and seemingly incommensurable, values means that reciprocity can only take us so far. Eventually, discussions have to stop and votes have to be taken. The first and perhaps most obvious point to be made in response is that, in practice, voting and reciprocity involve two very different kinds of political activities. Reciprocity is an activity in which reasons are offered for or against proposals in the hope of producing more informed opinions about those proposals. By contrast, voting is essentially a method of preference aggregation through which remaining differences of opinion are turned into binding political decisions (Elster 1998b: 6–7; Fishkin 2005: 71–2). Viewed in this way, the issue is not whether reciprocity should be expected to result in agreement (clearly, it should not, or at least not with any great degree of consistency), but why deliberative theorists have not done more to explore the relation between reciprocity and voting (but see, for example, James 2004, chapter 5; Waldron 1999; Gutmann 1999). Admittedly, voting is an enormously complex business. For example, as we will see in Chapter 7, all electoral systems have inherent biases (some, for example, promote proportionality, others promote durable government, while others still promote the creation of moderate or centrist coalitions) which, in turn, factor back into the calculations that voters make before they cast their ballot. What is more, those charged with designing and — 85 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies implementing electoral systems must also contend with the vagaries of social, political and economic context (Taagepera and Shugart 1989; Horowitz 2003b). But while deliberative theorists cannot be expected to do everything, the objection that we are dealing with here is so obvious that it almost beggars belief that they have not done more to address it. Adam Przeworski cuts to the heart of the matter when he asserts that ‘it is the result of voting, not of discussion, that authorises governments to govern, to compel. In the end, some people must submit to an opinion that is different from theirs or to a decision that is contrary to their interests’ (1998: 142). Why is it, then, that so many deliberative theorists have had so little to say about the relation between reciprocity and voting? At least part of the answer to this question stems from the highly influential role played by Ju¨rgen Habermas (1990a, 1996) in the recent deliberative revival. Habermas’s work on deliberative democracy has a tremendous amount to recommend it, especially with respect to his analysis of the relation between democratic deliberation and the challenges of social integration in modern pluralist societies. The concern with integration is also central to this book, and so I agree with Habermas that democracy goes better when citizens share a sense of solidarity and worse when they do not (see also Rehg 1994). But his failure to take pluralism seriously enough – to fully appreciate the potential intractability of disputes about value and the implications that follow for our understanding of the nature and scope of solidarity – undermines much of what is good about his contribution. Habermas wants, it would appear, to equate the legitimacy of democratically enacted laws and policies with their rational acceptability, whatever the cost. Those costs are usually reckoned in terms of the seemingly tenuous relation between his discourse theory and the cut and thrust of everyday democratic politics, where unanimity is normally in short supply and disagreement is typically the rule (McCarthy 1998). If deliberative democracy is to pass muster, its proponents must therefore find some means of linking the demand for reciprocity with their concern for integration, and of reconciling both with the fact of voting. Although deliberative theorists have been slow to pick up on this challenge, there is an emerging body of empirical research that aims to do precisely that (see, for example, Smith and Wales 2000; Connover et al. 2002; Steiner et al. 2005). To the forefront of this research is the ‘deliberative polling’ exercise which has been developed by James Fishkin and his colleagues. This exercise has provided considerable evidence showing not just that deliberation can lead to more informed decisions, but that it can also change the way in which people vote. Crucially, the deliberative poll does not prescribe — 86 —

The Requirement of Reciprocity consensus but instead assumes that deliberation will end in voting. As Fishkin puts it, ‘we go to great lengths not to push consensus, to measure the attitude changes in confidential questionnaires (secret ballots if you will), and then to aggregate them statistically’ (Fishkin 2005: 72). Basically, the deliberative poll works as follows. A random sample is first polled on a particular target issue or set of issues. Following this baseline poll, members of the sample are invited to attend a weekend event in order to deliberate together on the same target issue. Carefully balanced briefing materials, laying out arguments for and against, are sent to the participants before they arrive at the event so that they can better familiarise themselves with the key issues. At the event itself, participants deliberate in two alternating modes: small-group discussions led by trained moderators and plenary sessions to put questions composed by the small groups to panels of competing politicians and policy experts. At the end of the weekend, the sample is again polled on the target issue. The resulting changes of opinion are meant to represent the conclusions that the public at large would reach if it had the opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues (Fishkin 1995; Fishkin and Luskin 2000). Fishkin and his collaborators have assembled an impressive, if in certain respects preliminary, body of empirical findings. To date, more than twenty deliberative polls have been conducted in four different countries. Findings suggest not just that the initial random samples are highly representative of public opinion generally, but also that many participants really do change their minds once they gain a more informed understanding of the target issue and the difficulties that surround it. Most significantly of all, the deliberative process seems to involve not only the acquisition of purely factual information but also some greater degree of mutual understanding. As Fishkin and Robert Luskin conclude, participants ‘learn from the articulation of interests very different from their own when they speak across social cleavages, class differences and geographical boundaries’ (2000: 25; see also Luskin et al. 2002). Admittedly, what is far from clear is that the deliberative poll would produce such encouraging results in divided societies. Yet at least one of Fishkin’s test cases suggests that deliberative polling could have a positive impact in such societies. Australia is not a divided society. Yet in 1999, Fishkin and his collaborators conducted a deliberative poll on precisely the type of constitutional question that is often central to many ethno-national disputes, namely whether Australia should make changes to its constitutional status – in particular, whether it should become a republic and hence sever its remaining ties with the British Crown. Two weeks before a national referendum on this question, Fishkin and his collaborators — 87 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies brought together a random sample of voters and officials of both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ committees for the referendum. The deliberations followed the format outlined above. Data from this event are freely available on Stanford University’s Center for Deliberative Democracy website, and again suggest that, by comparing responses in the initial interview with the same policy questions immediately after the on-site deliberation, many participants really did change their views: ‘participants registered increases of as much as fifty or sixty points in knowledge of basic facts about the constitution and the referendum proposal and increased their support for the referendum proposal by twenty points, from 53 per cent to 73 per cent’. More significantly still, the data show that the ‘voting intentions of a more fully informed electorate turned out to be very different from those of the actual electorate (which rejected the referendum by a small margin)’ (Fishkin and Luskin 2000: 24). Australia was hardly likely to degenerate into ethnic conflict on account of this particular question. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to play down the importance of findings of this sort. Names matter, symbols matter, culture matters. Ask people in Kashmir or Northern Ireland. True, not much was at stake. Yet the evidence from this event, allied with the evidence from over twenty other such events in the United States and Europe, does make for compelling reading. It suggests that there need be no inherent, unavoidable tension between the requirement of reciprocity and the act of voting. On the contrary, the right conclusion to draw is that the one should inform the other, especially in divided societies where there really is a lot at stake. Reciprocity and the creation of shareable goods Let us turn now to the connection between reciprocity and the creation of what republicans refer to as ‘public goods’. As we saw in Chapter 3, public goods are goods that are irreducibly shared and hence cannot be disaggregated into so many individual parts. Moreover, their importance to democracy in divided societies derives from the fact that they can enable citizens to share a stronger sense of common nationality. In this sense, public goods can be viewed as part of the fabric of an overarching civic identity. However, although republicans tend to stress the substantive content of those goods (as if democracy were merely a heuristic for checking, via contestation, whether public goods track the interests of all concerned), the deliberative view that I advocate is much more procedural in its orientation. In divided societies, it makes little sense to say that public goods should reflect the civic character of the state, since that character is — 88 —

The Requirement of Reciprocity precisely what is at issue between conflicting groups. Rather, what really matters is a public process that all can accept (or at least a number sufficient to ward off challenges to its legitimacy), even when they dislike its results. For the sake of clarity, I will therefore use the term ‘shareable goods’ rather than ‘public goods’ as a way of indicating that my concern in what follows is primarily procedural rather than substantive in kind. As we have seen, the requirement of reciprocity takes as its starting point the idea that, because democratic decisions are collectively binding, we should try to justify those decisions by offering reasons that we think other citizens can accept. By insisting that arguments for and against alternative proposals should be assessed solely on their merits, deliberative democrats aim to express our standing as political equals and to afford our interests equal consideration and respect. But if this tells us what reciprocity is and how it should be grounded, it still leaves us wondering how all of this might relate to the creation of shareable goods. Moreover, it leaves us wondering how we should understand the notion of a shareable good, given that deliberation should not be expected to result in consensus. Following Richard Bellamy, I maintain that answers to these questions turn on a particular understanding of what it means for people with very different interests, and often with very different values, to compromise with one another (Bellamy 1999, chapter 4; cf. Richardson 2002, chapter 11). Admittedly, compromise is often looked upon with disdain, and sometimes with very good reason. It suggests the sacrifice of political principle to political expediency, the mark of politicians ‘motivated by pure self-interest and ready to do any deal for the sake of furthering their careers or holding on to power’ (Bellamy 1999: 94). However, compromise need have no such pejorative connotations. On the contrary, as Bellamy contends, compromise can also indicate a principled willingness to treat the interests and values of others as ‘matters to be met’ rather than as ‘constraints to be overcome through minimal, tactical concessions’ (Bellamy 1999: 101). Bellamy develops his account of compromise within an explicitly liberal framework, albeit one that (as we shall see) reserves a central place for reciprocity. However, we can arrive at similar, but not (as we shall see) identical, conclusions by exploring an idea that features strongly in all deliberative models, namely the idea of preference transformation. Unlike, for example, rational choice theory, deliberative democratic theory does not treat people’s political preferences as a given, but instead assumes that those preferences, along with the reasons offered in support of them, can be shaped and re-shaped in the light of public reasoning and discussion (Benhabib 1996: 71). In this sense, deliberative democracy requires us to engage with one another in a highly open and reflective fashion – it requires — 89 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies us to advance reasons that we think others can accept, to recognise that our initial positions may be faulty or misguided and to be willing to alter those preferences should better arguments be forthcoming. The obvious difficulty with the idea of preference transformation is that it appears to ask too much of the citizens of a divided society. Some preferences can be altered without insult or injury to the values that underpin them. But when preferences are driven by very real fears about the things that matter most to us in life, the idea of preference transformation begins to look an awful lot less attractive. This is not to suggest that underlying values are immutable. They can and do change – sometimes slowly and imperceptibly, at others times quickly and with purpose. The point remains, however, that since some values will be of fundamental importance, it seems odd to think that we can show respect for people by calling those values into question, even if only by implication. In divided societies, arguments of this sort are likely to be interpreted as surreptitious attempts at cultural assimilation, and hence may increase tensions rather than reduce them (but see Mouffe 1999, 2000; James 2004). Thus, the problem with the idea of preference transformation is that it may well be self-defeating. One possible way of avoiding this risk is to conclude that public reasoning and discussion should only concern itself with means and not with ends (cf. Przeworski 1998). So, for example, the members of a divided society might all agree that they need a certain kind of health service or educational system, but disagree about how that service or system is best provided. However, as Habermas’s ‘process model’ of democratic deliberation clearly shows, what starts out as a discussion about means can, and very often does, end up being a discussion about ends: a practical problem about how to implement a particular public policy may call for expert advice; but since that advice is always fallible and rarely uncontested, legislators are in turn required to seek agreement on the goals and values presupposed by the policy before any final decision can be taken. At this level, what initially seemed a purely practical problem can develop into something far more intractable (Habermas 1996: 164–8). It may not be possible, therefore, to confine ourselves to deliberation about means. Yet if deliberation about ends can be dangerous territory – if there is always the chance that we may cause deep offence to others – then how should we proceed? How might we show respect for one another’s values while at the same time recognising that our standing as political equals calls for a certain level of flexibility in matters of common concern? To answer this question, let us return to Bellamy’s account of compromise. As I mentioned above, Bellamy advances a moral or principled view of political compromise. According to that view, compromise is not a matter of — 90 —

The Requirement of Reciprocity political expediency or tactical concession, but is instead a matter of building shareable solutions to common problems. Naturally, constructing those solutions will inevitably involve some mutual give and take; otherwise they could be classed as compromises. But what is more, they will also create tensions for those who adopt them: A compromise is not a synthesis that all regard as superior to their previous position. Compromisers must endorse a package many of the components of which they would reject if taken in isolation. Though they consider the agreement as the most acceptable to all concerned, each retains his or her own view of what is best. (Bellamy 1999: 102) Bellamy acknowledges that some people may find this notion hopelessly muddled. For one thing, it seems odd to think that a compromise can be principled, especially when it falls short of what we think is best; but given that it does fall short, then, a fortiori, it leaves us wondering what might motivate people to set about building such a compromise in the first place. Although these objections may appear plausible, they ignore two crucial points. First, as Bellamy reminds us, people often adhere to reasonable but conflicting values. But since all reasonable claims cannot always be met, then ‘a compromise becomes the only alternative to deadlock or the coerced capitulation of one or more of the parties’ (1999: 103). Naturally, different sorts of conflict will require different sorts of compromise. Some will be relatively straightforward to construct. For example, conflicting groups may simply decide to ‘live and let live’. But even here the compromise is principled, in the sense that it requires for its success some agreement on the bounds of mutual toleration. Alternatively, ‘a more detailed policy might emerge, taking the form of a composite agreement in which each party gets some but not all of what it wants’ (Bellamy 1999: 104). For a compromise of this sort to emerge, the policy under consideration must obviously have more than one dimension, so that trade-offs between alternative dimensions can occur. Yet although trade-offs are crucial to logrolling and bargaining more generally, they ‘need not entail the view that all opinions are reducible to interests, as is sometimes assumed’ (Bellamy 1999: 104). On the contrary, people may be willing to trade one dimension for another simply because they do not attach much in the way of moral significance to the dimension that they are willing to give up. These two examples show that compromise can be principled in a fairly direct sense. They succeed, however, precisely because conflicting values are left relatively untouched. But what would happen in cases of conflict that — 91 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies did not allow values to be sidestepped in such ways? Bellamy suggests that the answer to this question rests with the moral significance of reciprocity, which brings us to a second crucial point (one, however, that shows up an important difference between Bellamy’s liberal outlook and the deliberative outlook that I offer here). The aim of Bellamy’s discussion is not simply to show that compromises can be principled; rather, it is also to show that compromises that ‘foster mutual understanding have a moral significance in their own right’ (1999: 105). The move here is Rawlsian in origin. As Bellamy argues, the ‘obligation to obtain the acceptance of others forces people to present their case at a certain level of generality and in ways that appeal to a shareable norm of justice or interest, constituted in each case by compromise on either a composite good or principle or some package of goods and principles’ (1999: 106). In other words, requiring people to justify their proposals on terms that others can accept will not only force them to appeal to general norms, principles and values, but will also require them to build composite or multi-dimensional solutions to collective problems that everyone can have reason to accept, even if ultimately those reasons are not decisive for them. Solutions of this sort can have tremendous significance in divided societies. For example, the 1998 Belfast Agreement not only recognises the equal status of the two main contending groups, British unionist and Irish nationalist, but also contains important federal and confederal dimensions, provides for an extensive equality agenda, the creation of a human rights commission charged with examining the possibility of drafting a tailor-made bill of rights for Northern Ireland and so forth. Although the Agreement has proved difficult to implement, the point remains that only a multilayered agreement of this sort could have proved acceptable to both sides to the conflict (O’Leary 1999). On one level, the relationship between the requirement of reciprocity and the construction of a shareable good is therefore explained in terms of encouraging people to build composite solutions to common problems. On another level, however, there is something far more fundamental at issue here. The requirement of reciprocity is not just about encouraging people to move towards the common ground. It is also about expressing a particular normative view about the kind of respect that we owe to one another by virtue of our standing as political equals. In this sense, the process by which a composite compromise is constructed matters almost as much as the content of that compromise (Bellamy 1999: 107). Composite compromises will create tensions for those who accept them – again, a compromise is not a synthesis that all regard as superior to their previous position. Yet in so far that those compromises can be justified by appeal to general political — 92 —

The Requirement of Reciprocity principles, and in so far as they express our standing as political equals, it is up to people to decide for themselves how to reconcile their more particular commitments with their role as democratic citizens. Indeed, it is rational for them to do so, given what they otherwise stand to lose (Freeman 2003: 34). To the extent that the citizens of a divided society are willing and able ‘to practice reciprocal accommodation as part of a search for conditions of mutual acceptability that reach toward compromise that constructs a shareable good’ (Bellamy 1999: 101), they will find it just that bit easier to regard themselves as engaged in a joint political enterprise. They will also find it just that bit easier to accept the packages of policies upon which they have to vote. This is what I meant above when I indicated that shareable goods can provide the foundation for a common civic nationality. According to Bellamy, however, none of this need compel participants to alter their own view. Rather, they may simply have accepted that a compromise is necessary in the light of a moral requirement to respect the views of others. As such, Bellamy’s liberal account of reciprocity simply filters out certain ways in which citizens may make demands. On the face of it, this liberal position is attractive. It seems to obviate the need for preference transformation, and hence does not ask too much of the citizens of a divided society. In true liberal fashion, it once again respects values by leaving them entirely untouched. There are, however, at least two shortcomings attaching to this liberal view. First, in some cases we may accept the need to compromise out of respect for others, even if this means setting our personal values to one side. However, in cases where values are much more keenly felt (as they normally are in divided societies), then at least some value transformation must take place. This need not, nor is it likely to, amount to radical transformation. But it does allow us to argue that a deliberative approach is broader than a liberal approach in that it allows that the two kinds of positions may have to meet half way – our respect for others may have to be tempered by a respect for our own values, just as our own values may need to be tempered by a respect for others, if a workable compromise is to be constructed (but see Rawls 1996: 61). In turn, this suggests a second reason why we should be unhappy with a liberal approach. Just as there will inevitably be tensions in reconciling alternative ethnic identities to the civic identity of the state, there will inevitably be tensions in reconciling our political and personal commitments. However, the kinds of transformations at issue here need not be disrespectful. On the contrary, we should see the process of deliberative engagement as one in which we build upon our values by taking other points of view into consideration, even if those views can never fully be our own. In the ideal case, this moral understanding of deliberation in general, — 93 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies and the requirement of reciprocity in particular, does not require us to give up on our own values. Rather, it encourages us to be open to the thought that at least some of those values may, at least potentially, be enriched through deliberating with others who see the world differently to us. The content of public reason The account of reciprocity that I have presented in this chapter is informed by John Rawls’s account of public reason. That account, however, has been criticised on a number of grounds. Two of those criticisms are particularly relevant to the argument of this book. The first concerns the content of public reason. Rawls contends that when it comes to addressing questions of constitutional essentials and matters of basic justice, citizens (or, more usually, their representatives) should only appeal to shared political values. However, critics point out that those values may not exist, or, even where they do exist, they may be subject to intense interpretative dispute. The second objection turns on the claim that public reason favours some citizens while disadvantaging others. Here, I will only consider the first of these two objections. I treat the second objection at much greater length in Chapter 6. According to Rawls, citizens should conduct their political deliberations ‘within the framework of what each sincerely regards as a reasonable political conception of justice, a conception that expresses political values that others as free and equal also might reasonably be expected reasonably to endorse’ (1996: l, 226, 241). The kinds of reasonable political values that he has in mind are those that we might normally expect to find in the public political culture of a democratic constitutional state – fairness, equality and toleration, accountability and inclusion, a commitment to individual rights and opportunities and so on. Because these political values are widely shared, they can, or so Rawls argues, found a family of reasonable political conceptions (of which his own ‘justice as fairness’ is but one example) to which citizens are to appeal when debating constitutional issues and matters of basic economic and social justice. This constraint on public deliberation aims not only to satisfy the principle of reciprocity, but to do so in a very particular way. It requires citizens to justify their proposals by appealing to general political values, principles and conceptions. Citizens and representatives may, Rawls tells us, appeal to their own particular moral outlook, or what he refers to as their own ‘comprehensive moral doctrines’, but only under the proviso ‘that in due course public reasons, given by a reasonable political conception, are presented sufficient to support whatever the comprehensive doctrines are introduced to support’ (1996: li–ii). Of course, it might be objected that — 94 —

The Requirement of Reciprocity many comprehensive doctrines cannot be expressed in terms of political values and consequently that such values are too restrictive to settle all cases. However, the principle of reciprocity continues to impose constraints even when public reasoning appears to have reached an impasse. Specifically, it requires citizens to ‘vote for the ordering of political values they sincerely think the most reasonable’ (1996: lv). Otherwise citizens fail to exercise political power in ways that satisfy the principle of reciprocity. Moreover, constraining public reasoning in the way that Rawls suggests also implies that political decisions must be publicly justifiable. For although representatives can, in all good conscience, seek to advance the particular interests of their constituents, Rawls’s political conception requires them to do so in language that is available and accessible to citizens generally (but see Horton 2003: 12–14). In limiting deliberators so that they express those comprehensive views in terms of political values, Rawls hopes that they can avoid relying on what is controversial in offering public justifications with regard to basic political issues (1996: 224–5). However, critics have found Rawls’s account of public reason less than convincing. As I mentioned above, one broad criticism turns on the claim that public reason favours certain members of society over others. As we will see in Chapter 6, difference democrats like Lynn Sanders (1997) and Iris Young (2000) have been especially alive to this worry. For now, though, I want to concentrate on a second major criticism – namely, that the kinds of values that Rawls has in mind may not exist in a divided society; but even where they do, they may be the object of bitter interpretative dispute (see, for example, Horton 2003: 14–21). The objection that shared political values may not exist is not all that difficult to address. If the citizens of a divided society do not share a commitment to a sufficient, if indeterminate, number of the same political values, there can be little or no hope for their society. If citizens cannot point to common values, if, at some point, they cannot point to standards that all can share, public reasoning cannot take them any further. At this point, the democratic options are extremely bleak indeed: partition or secession, which, in practice, are rarely peaceful and often involve loss of life (Horowitz 1985: 588–92; McGarry and O’Leary 1993: 11–16). The second part of this objection is much more problematic. Rawls claims, for example, that the principle of equal liberty of conscience ‘takes the truths of religion off the political agenda’ since that principle will be accepted by people committed to constitutional democracy, whatever their other beliefs (1996: 151). However, as John Horton points outs, ‘while this may be a principle that all reasonable people so committed will broadly endorse, disagreement quickly surfaces when it comes to interpreting and — 95 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies applying the principle’ (2003: 16). For while citizens may accept the principle at a general level of abstraction, the scope for disagreement in practical interpretation is extensive, arising, among other things, from questions about what counts as a religion or a matter of conscience; how far people are permitted to educate their children in their own beliefs; what sorts of protections, if any, individuals or groups are entitled to against the abuse of opponents; how conflicts with a broad range of other values (such as personal security, national defence or the need to protect confidentiality) are to be weighed; and whether some groups should be entitled to a measure of public resources to give voice to their view. (Horton 2003: 16–17) This list of potential conflicts amply illustrates the depth of the problem with which we are dealing here. If political values are so abstract that they can be interpreted in a host of different ways, then we must wonder just how helpful a political values approach might actually prove to be in a divided society. Cass Sunstein, for example, argues that although the Rawlsian project is normatively attractive, real world democracies throw that project very much into doubt. As he puts it: ‘Democracies, and law in democracies, must deal with people who very much disagree on the right as well as on the good. Democracies, and law in democracies, must deal with people who tend to distrust abstractions altogether’ (1999: 95). Sunstein’s own solution is to (try to) eschew abstractions altogether, including abstract theorising about political values, in favour of what he calls ‘incompletely theorised agreements on particular outcomes’ (1999, 2001). Basically, the idea here is that, instead of appealing to general political principles, citizens and representatives should instead try to reason analogically from case to case: in comparing case A (which we know to be illegal) with case B (whose legality is uncertain) we may discover a low-level principle that covers both. However, as Sunstein himself acknowledges, in explaining why an analogy holds between A and B, but not between A and C, analogisers ‘must invoke a reason of principle or policy’ (1999: 103). Admittedly, the kind of principle at issue here will be low-level. However, on really contentious issues, those principles may not stay low-level for very long. They may be rejected altogether, at which point the chances of serious conflict become very real, or we have no choice but to move to higher and higher levels of abstraction. Again, Sunstein seems to acknowledge this much when he speaks of the idea of ‘conceptual ascent’ (although, oddly enough, conceptual ascent seems to be a skill that only ‘distinguished judges’ possess) (1999: 113). — 96 —

The Requirement of Reciprocity So where does all of this leave us? First, it leaves us with the fact that interpretative disputes about general political principles are pervasive. Paradoxically, however, the more pervasive those disputes become, the more we need those principles. The fact of reasonable pluralism demands that political disputes be resolved at higher and higher levels of abstraction or generality; however, the higher the level of generality, the greater the room for interpretative dispute (cf. Habermas 1990a: 65). This is often why questions concerning sovereignty, human rights, equality legislation, the role of religion in public life and so on often prove so intractable in divided societies. And yet, if deliberative democracy is to prove its worth, then these are precisely the kinds of issues that it must be able to address. So what should we do? To answer this question, let us return briefly to an idea that has recurred throughout this chapter. Despite its shortcomings, the general thrust of Rawls’s account of public reason is nonetheless significant: in essence, it requires people to hold their views in full consciousness that they are just one among many, and to aspire to justify them accordingly. Rawls uses the term ‘reasonable’ to describe people who are willing to hold their views in this way. As such, ‘reasonableness’ is both a political virtue and a description of how people should approach questions concerning the basic structure of their society (1996: 49–50, 60; 1999: 578). In the end, of course, there is no guarantee that even reasonable people will agree, no matter how genuinely they try to meet the requirement of reciprocity. But although such failures can be disastrous in divided societies, they need not be. As I have already suggested, a willingness to advance reasons that others might be freely able to accept is one important way in which we can show respect for one another as political equals. In this sense, the requirement of reciprocity has moral significance in its own right, independently of its outcome. Admittedly, it is important not to overstate the matter. A deliberative procedure that only rarely enabled people to agree would surely atrophy, and perhaps eventually undermine, their capacity for mutual respect. However, it is important not to understate the matter either. People who are willing to acknowledge one another as political equals are more likely to make the kinds of composite compromises that are necessary if democracy is to succeed. Again, those compromises will create tensions for those who adopt them, in the sense that they will get some, but not all, of what they might have originally wanted. This, however, is the price that we sometimes have to pay for living under a political system that aims to treat us all as equals.

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Chapter 5

The Requirement of Publicity

In the last chapter, I argued that the requirement of reciprocity can play its part in helping to create a stronger sense of common national identity among the citizens of a divided society. More specifically, I argued that, by requiring citizens to provide reasons for their proposals that others can accept, reciprocity promotes the kinds of compromises that build shareable goods. In turn, those goods can form the basis of a stronger sense of common national identity. That argument, however, is incomplete. In so far as the deliberative requirement of reciprocity is concerned only with how to justify political proposals, it might underpin the decisions of a small and highly exclusive group of ruling elites just as easily as it might underpin the decisions of a large and highly representative legislative assembly. But then it would seem that reciprocity alone is too weak to support the basic assumption upon which all forms of democracy ultimately rest – that all those who are bound by a decision should be entitled to an equal say in its making. As we saw in Chapter 2, democracy can be justified by appealing to two important values, namely intrinsic equality and personal autonomy. A group of benevolent elites might be willing to engage in reasoned discussion among themselves, and might, moreover, be willing to treat each person’s good and interest with equal consideration. In this sense, the requirement of reciprocity satisfies the value of intrinsic equality. However, it does not satisfy the value of personal autonomy since it does not lead to the view that people should be treated as the best judge of their own interest. And yet the obvious problem is that, the greater the number of people who are included in the deliberative process, the more impracticable deliberative democracy seemingly becomes. The sheer scale of most modern democratic societies seems to make nonsense of the idea that members should come together in order to debate the political issues of the day. But even if it were possible for large numbers of citizens to gather together, the inevitable time constraints under which most political decisions must be taken would surely mean that many of those citizens would not have time to speak. — 98 —

The Requirement of Publicity Deliberative democrats have sought to address this ‘problem of scale’ in a number of ways. Some proposals involve the development and recognition of multiple deliberative arenas in which small groups deliberate (for a concise overview, see Weale 2001). In so far as the findings of those groups can feed into the governmental decision-making process, there is reason to think that deliberation and democracy can be reconciled. At a more general level, however, deliberative democrats have responded to the problem of scale by joining the requirement of reciprocity to a requirement of publicity, which refers to the openness or transparency of the political system. Since it is impossible for everyone to deliberate together within a single deliberative arena, the process of governing needs to be both visible and understandable. Otherwise, those who cannot participate directly will be unable to know with any degree of certainty whether they, too, would have arrived at the same decisions by a similar process of reasoning. The issue that I seek to explore in this chapter is how publicity might be thought to contribute towards the creation a stronger sense of common national identity among members of a divided society. I will approach this basic issue by means of two subsidiary questions: how might the requirement of publicity be justified? and to what extent, or under what conditions, should publicity be guaranteed? To these ends, the chapter will proceed as follows. Having defined the requirement of publicity and indicated its importance to democratic politics in divided societies, I consider a number of alternative philosophical justifications for that requirement. I then consider whether publicity might help equalise the patterns of asymmetry that characterise, and often undermine, negotiation processes in divided societies. Against this background, I mount a case in support of the requirement of publicity that stresses its transformative potential. Despite this potential, however, the fact remains that secrecy, too, may be important to negotiation processes. I conclude by arguing that although secrecy can indeed have an important place, the balance between publicity and secrecy must itself be publicly justified. Justifying publicity In everyday terms, the requirement of publicity calls for greater openness or transparency in political life, and is generally regarded as an antidote to the machinations of unscrupulous politicians and those that surround them. Beyond prominent hearings and dramatic revelations of political misconduct, ‘we also see the requirement of publicity at work in the many routine procedures that bring decisions and the reasons for them to public light before they are made final’ (Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 97–8). Yet although publicity is a — 99 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies familiar feature of contemporary democratic politics, what is not so clear is how it might be justified and how far its scope should extend. There are a great many pragmatic reasons that might be advanced in support of publicity. As I have just indicated, publicity is an important means of fettering wayward politicians. And, in the most general sense, it is also obvious that people cannot follow rules and regulations of which they have no knowledge (Goodin 1992: 131). However, of all the pragmatic reasons that might be advanced in support of the requirement of publicity, perhaps none is more important than the fact that, since representative government is largely unavoidable in today’s large-scale democracies, it enables ordinary people to see that their interests and opinions have been afforded a fair hearing. Of course, claiming that our opinion should be afforded a fair hearing is not the same as claiming that it should hold sway. Yet where it has been overruled, publicity matters all the more because, as Mill pointed out, it enables us to feel satisfied that our opinion has been set aside, ‘not by a mere act of will, but for what are thought superior reasons’ (1991 [1861]: 282). In other words, it matters because it gives legitimacy to the political system. As one might expect, certain models of representative government will meet the requirement of publicity better than certain others. But what one might not expect is that some models admonish us to eschew it altogether. This is particularly true of elitist views of democracy in the tradition of Schumpeter (1976 [1942]) and Riker (1982). Those elitist views typically assume that because (1) ordinary people are incapable of comprehending the complexities of decision making in mass democracies and (2) the idea that voting rules can aggregate individual preferences into a popular will is incoherent, the significance of elections should turn on nothing more than their ability to ensure that representatives will not become tyrannical (Weale 1999: 34; Miller 1993: 80). In short, the electorate does not need to see how decisions are made, but should instead confine itself to ensuring that politicians do not get above their station (although one might naturally wonder why ordinary people should be entrusted with even this much, given that they are, according to the elitist view, so politically inept). Deliberative democracy is premised on a very different set of underlying assumptions. It does not presume that the average voter is less intelligent than the average representative, or that the average voter is less capable of evaluating the reasoning behind a given decision (as opposed to being merely qualified to assess its impact via periodic elections). Admittedly, deliberative democrats do argue for representative democracy on the grounds that ‘deliberation by leaders who have been tested by experience (if only by political campaigns) is likely to be more informed, effective, and — 100 —

The Requirement of Publicity relevant (if not more sophisticated)’ (Gutmann and Thompson 2004: 30). This does not undermine the case for publicity, however. On the contrary, the requirement of publicity says nothing about the qualifications necessary for political office. All it says is that the reasons that governments give in order to justify political decisions, along with the information necessary to assess those reasons, should be freely available to public scrutiny. Nor do deliberative democrats accept that democratic decisions cannot reflect the popular will. True, once we allow that deliberation will normally end in voting, deliberative democracy becomes vulnerable to the social choice critique of democracy in general – that is, to the criticism that, because decisions are a function of the particular decision rules by which they are arrived at, and since there is no reason to prefer any one decision rule over any other, collective decision making is an inherently arbitrary affair. The classic example here is the way in which voting cycles can impact on majority voting. In essence, cycling occurs when three or more voters are choosing between three or more options, and where no one option is preferred to all other options in a pair-wise competition – A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A, and so on. Since this means that the decision that results will depend on nothing more than the point at which the voting stops, there is no obviously right answer under majority rule. Now, as David Miller argues, although deliberative democracy cannot sweep the social choice critique away at a stroke, it does contain resources that can lessen its impact (1993: 81; cf. Dryzek 2000: 50–6). In particular, deliberation can transform people’s preferences in ways that sharply curtail the set of option rankings with which the decision rule has to deal. This not only makes voting a much more rational activity than it might otherwise be, but, to the extent that the entire process is made public, it also reduces the scope for strategic manipulation (Miller 1993: 85–6; see also Fishkin 2005: 74). Deliberative democrats continue to address the challenges posed by the social choice critique of democracy as such. Yet as far as divided societies are concerned, what matters is not so much who wins the debate within academia, but how democracy is conceived of by those who are charged with the actual tasks of designing power-sharing institutions. Consociation is the dominant (some would say the only) institutional approach to managing ethnic conflict democratically within the boundaries of an established state. The defining feature of this approach is ‘government by elite cartel’, a feature which Brian Barry has characterised (some would say caricatured) in the following manner: In a ‘consociational democracy’ there are groups with a low level of consensus between them and that are mutually isolated. The sharply — 101 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies incompatible aspirations of these groups are articulated by different political parties, which fight elections by appealing to the loyalty of their own client group through whipping up group sentiment and making play with the group ideology. The leaders of these parties, having disciplined their supporters into following them by emphasizing the need to unite to fight the others, then use the free hand this gives them to settle the issues dividing the groups in a pragmatic way. (1975a: 486) Although Barry is no fan of consociation, his basic point deserves to be taken very seriously. Consociation is a perfect example of elitist democracy at work. It is an eminently practical approach, based on the view that what is needed to manage ethnic conflict in divided societies are ethnic leaders who are willing to compromise with one another and who are also strong enough to be able to sell whatever bargains they strike among themselves to their respective ethnic group. Yet cast in this way, the consociational approach leaves little room for publicity about how decisions are made, or about the reasoning that goes into them, since all of the important decisions are taken behind closed doors. It may, of course, be responded that the problem here is not with consociational democracy, but with publicity. In societies racked by deep ethnic divisions, ordinary citizens may be too frightened to make the kinds of compromises that elites might be prepared to make if given a free hand, away from the glare of publicity. There are, however, good reasons as to why we should be dissatisfied with this response. Publicity is essential to building trust in, and support for, new democratic systems. Equally decisive is the fact that publicity stands as a barrier to corruption, the blight of so many African, South American and post-Soviet states struggling to make the transition from colonialism to independence and democracy. Finally, publicity is a precondition of accountability and institutional reform. Not only does it motivate representatives to do their duty, but it also offers safeguards against the abuse of political power and the rule of law (Linz and Stepan 1996: 18–19; Diamond 1999: 240). Despite the appeal of these three reasons, it might nevertheless be objected that, since they are based on purely pragmatic considerations, their force will ultimately depend on the given context. In short, the pragmatics of publicity may sometimes have to give way to other kinds of pragmatic considerations. Moreover, it can even be argued that, although circumstances on the ground may be such that key decisions will have to be taken behind closed doors, there may be nothing to stop citizens from debating those decisions that have been made public. These points are undeniable, and certainly I will have much more to say about them later in — 102 —

The Requirement of Publicity this chapter. However, publicity cannot be reduced simply to pragmatic considerations. On the contrary, there are strong principled reasons that support the requirement and that suggest why it should be pursued as far as possible in any effort to strengthen the transition to democracy in divided societies. Here, I contrast two well-known philosophical approaches to justifying publicity. First, let us consider Bentham’s argument for publicity. As a utilitarian, Bentham naturally supported publicity on the grounds that it would have positive benefits or consequences. For instance, he argued that representatives should deliberate in public so that their behaviour might stand as a shining example for ordinary citizens. As he put it, ‘the order which reigns in the discussion of a political assembly, will form by imitation the national spirit. This order will be reproduced in clubs and inferior assemblies, in which the people will be pleased to find the regularity of which they have formed the idea from the greater model’ (1999 [1843]: 31). Turning the tables, Bentham argued that publicity would also have the consequence of inhibiting politicians from abusing their position or usurping political power. In this case, his argument was not that representatives are less trustworthy than ordinary citizens, but the more general point that power corrupts unless appropriately constrained: Whom ought we to distrust if not those to whom is committed great authority, with great temptations to abuse it? Consider the objects of their duties: they are not their own affairs, but the affairs of others, comparatively indifferent to them, very difficult, very complicated, – which indolence alone would lead them to neglect, and which require the most laborious application. Consider their personal interests: you will often find them in opposition to the interests confided in them. They also possess all the means of serving themselves at the expense of the public, without the possibility of being convicted of it. (1999 [1843]: 37; quoted in part in Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 97) Once again, the point is that publicity can compel politicians to think about the common good rather than simply about their own personal or sectional interest. In divided societies, this is crucially important since it may encourage politicians to rise above ethnic divisions and lead them to begin to think more along the lines of parliamentarians devoted to the common weal. Admittedly, under some conditions, publicity might have the exact opposite effect – it may, that is, serve to heighten divisions rather than ameliorate them (Sunstein 2003). But although this will mean that some room must be made for secrecy, we will see later on that secrecy must itself — 103 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies be publicly justified. For now, though, let us consider why Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson are right to argue that, ‘Bentham’s argument for publicity is powerful on its own terms, but it is significantly incomplete’ (1996: 98). Their basic argument here is a familiar philosophical one, stemming from the fact that utilitarians define the morality of an action in terms of the consequences described as good or bad in a non-moral sense. Take the general form of the utilitarian’s basic moral principle, the principle of utility: ‘any action that maximises X is morally right’. Here, X is some feature of the consequences of the action in question. Traditionally, X was understood as pleasure or happiness. Recent versions of utilitarianism take X to be the satisfaction of desires, where desires are weighted appropriately according to their actual strengths. Now, whatever X is taken to be, it cannot be understood in moral terms. Instead, it has to be some nonmoral good, that is, some commodity considered valuable, desirable or worthwhile independently of the moral rightness of the actions that promote it. And so it follows that, on Bentham’s consequentialist account, publicity has no moral value in itself. Or as Gutmann and Thompson put it, for Bentham, publicity ‘is just a mechanism to make the self-interest of officials coincide with the general interest’. As such, they ‘have no moral reason to favour publicity over secrecy’, but ‘may keep secrets if they can get away with it’ (1996: 98). By contrast, the second approach that I want to discuss here treats publicity as valuable in itself. Kant proposed his ‘transcendental formula of public law’ in the second appendix to his essay ‘Perpetual Peace’. It states that, ‘All actions relating to the right of other human beings are wrong if their maxim is not compatible with their being made public’ (Kant 1991 [1795]: 126). Although much has been written about this formula, the important point for our purposes is that it stands as a test that any policy must pass before it can be considered right or just. If, on due reflection, I think that my preferred policy would not succeed if the reasons for it were made known, or that those reasons would excite opprobrium were they publicly revealed, then I should persist no further with that policy. Or as Kant puts it, a maxim which I may not declare openly without thereby frustrating my own intention, or which must at all costs be kept secret if is to succeed, or which I cannot publicly acknowledge without thereby inevitably arousing the resistance of everyone to my plans . . . is itself unjust and thus constitutes a threat to everyone. (1991 [1795]: 126) Now, on the face of it, Kant’s proposal seems highly attractive. It reflects his more general moral view that people should only act from rules that they — 104 —

The Requirement of Publicity have made their own and from commands that they have given to themselves. In other words, it reflects his more general privileging of autonomy over heteronomy (Luban 1996: 155; Goodin 1992: 131). Up to a point, this account coheres both with the particular account of democracy that I present in this book and with the more general point that it is not democratic for some people to be under the control of others. However, it coheres only up to a point. As David Luban notes, ‘Kant speaks only of the ‘‘possibility’’ and ‘‘capacity’’ of a maxim’s withstanding full public knowledge’ (1996: 156). As such, Kant’s formula is merely hypothetical, and is therefore meant to govern the conduct of a thought experiment (whose referent is an ideal and rational public), rather than the conduct of an actual decision-making process. Yet even if we are willing to allow that, for example, a cabinet minister is capable of thinking through political problems on his or her own, we have no direct way of knowing when he or she has arrived at an outcome that is in everybody’s best interest. In the absence of a genuinely public process of reasoning and discussion, a decision may express private or sectional interests just as easily as it might express the collective good (see Habermas 1990a: 65). Thus, although Kant does provide a principled basis for publicity – one that is grounded in our standing as autonomous beings – he divorces that basis from the real world contexts in which it must apply. We can put ourselves in other people’s shoes only up to a point. Beyond that point, we need to explain and justify our reasoning to those others directly, since the decisions that result will be binding on us all. And so, the most plausible justification for publicity may simply be the definition of democracy itself. Anything less, and we may fail to do justice not only to the value of autonomy, but also to the value of political equal upon which democracy also rests. The difficulties of negotiating peace agreements With this democratic justification for publicity in mind, the question that I will seek to address in this next section is, how might publicity assist the negotiation of a peace agreement, accord or constitution? First, though, it is important to provide some sense of the general difficulties that surround negotiation processes and that hamper their chances of ever arriving at a successful conclusion. It almost goes without saying that the period in which a peace agreement is negotiated is one of the most crucial stages in the transition from divided society to democratic state. Such periods are often highly fluid and are — 105 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies normally extremely fragile. They are prone to severe breakdowns, and may heighten rather than reduce the feelings of insecurity and mistrust that pervade divided societies. However, such periods can also be periods of great promise, during which the contending parties deliberate with one another in the hope of constructing new terms of peaceful co-existence. A judiciously negotiated peace agreement can be a source of common national allegiance, can help build sustainable peace, and can even reconcile those who, in the past, may have sought to pursue their political goals through the use of violence. Once again, it is important not to claim too much for deliberative democracy. As Jon Elster points out, the ‘processes by which constitutions are adopted vary widely. Not all involve deliberation, nor are all adopted by democratic procedures’ (1998b: 98). Similarly, when comparative scholars talk about democratic transitions, their concern is not, in the main, with democratic societies trying to transform themselves into something that more closely approximates the ideal (however that ideal is conceived), but with highly dysfunctional societies that are, or have been, characterised by protracted political violence. Consequently, the process by which a peace agreement comes about may be more or less democratic. An agreement may be the product of ethnic elites who have a democratic mandate (Northern Ireland) or of politicians whose mandate has expired but who continue to have some political legitimacy deriving from their previous mandate (Lebanon), while others still may be negotiated by political actors with no democratic mandate (Liberia) and others still may be imposed by external actors from the outside (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Deliberative theorists are not blind to the fact that the processes by which constitutions are adopted may be more or less democratic. For instance, according to a proceduralist view of deliberative democracy of the type that I offer in this book, the legitimacy of political decisions will depend, at least in the first instance, on the legitimacy of the rules according to which those decisions were enacted. But if, as Frank Michelman argues, procedural legitimacy is the operative standard, then the outcomes of political elections, the decisions of parliaments, and the content of court decisions are, in principle, subject to the suspicion that they may have come about in the wrong way, that is, in accordance with deficient rules and within a deficient institutional framework (Michelman 1998: 91). According to Michelman, this suspicion is rendered all the more troubling once we realise that it is not confined simply to the legitimacy of political decisions in the here and now, but reaches back even beyond the founding of the constitution itself. Since a democratic order does not come into being until the constitution (or peace agreement) has been ratified, — 106 —

The Requirement of Publicity there is a clear sense in which the founding moment cannot have been a democratic moment. And while it might be responded that constituent assemblies are often elected by, or nominated from within, the main groups in society, this merely gives rise to a problem of ‘infinite regress’, since we have no way of knowing whether the process of nomination was, in any meaningful sense, democratic (Michelman 1998: 91). Versions of this suspicion are repeatedly raised by individuals and groups who, for one reason or another, feel excluded by the very rules and procedures that are, in principle, supposed to guarantee their standing as political equals. Feminist theorists, for instance, have advanced metacritiques of procedural democracy as a central aspect of their struggle for equal recognition, critiques that are intended to expose the biases and structures of ideological domination implicit in discursive practices and institutions (see, for example, Young 1990; Fraser 1997). Yet somewhat fortuitously, critiques of this sort may well contain within them the kernel of a solution to the problem of infinite regress. Michelman argues that the infinite regress cannot be stopped except by positing a fundamental moral standard, or what he terms ‘a transcendentallogical deduction’ (1998: 92). Habermas can be read as adopting just such a solution in Between Facts and Norms, where the discourse principle (a dialogical interpretation of the categorical imperative) plays the role of a quasi-foundational principle that is justified independently of the founding of a constitution (1996: 121). However, in response to the charge that moral standards are in many cases contentious (even where they are grounded in something as supposedly innocuous as the ‘necessary pragmatic presuppositions of communicative action’), Habermas has recently adopted a different, more Hegelian, approach to the problem of infinite regress. Rather than appealing directly to the discourse principle, he now proposes that we understand the democratic constitution as an ongoing, ‘tradition-building’ project. While this project does have a clearly marked beginning in time, later generations of citizens continue the task of interpreting, amending and applying the system of rights contained in the constitution in response to changing circumstances. Thus, as long as citizens can continue to rethink the system of rights upon which the constitution is founded, the infinite regress problem need not unduly concern them (Habermas 2001: 774). In support of this argument, Habermas refers to ‘hot’ periods in American constitutional history such as the New Deal under Roosevelt, as well as the radical constitutional interpretations of Supreme Court Judge William J. Brennan, ‘that were characterised by the innovative spirit of successful reforms’ (2001: 769, 774–5). More generally, Habermas claims that once interpretive battles — 107 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies have subsided, citizens generally come to recognise constitutional reforms as achievements, even if they were at first sharply contested. In retrospect, we come to see ‘that with the inclusion of marginalised groups and with the empowerment of deprived classes, the poorly satisfied presuppositions for the legitimacy of existing democratic procedures are better realised’ (2001: 774–5; but see Ferrara 2001). This solution is convincing, both in theory and in practice. Even in cases in which those who negotiate a democratic constitution have no electoral mandate, the impact of putting a democratic constitution into place may be felt extremely quickly. The experience of voting in legislative elections can be a significant event in the lives of ordinary citizens, especially for those who were previously excluded. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, there is no guarantee that, once negotiations have begun, they will lead to a successful conclusion. According to William Zartman, one key reason why negotiation processes fail is because the contending parties do not approach the negotiation table as equal partners – in other words, they approach the negotiation table in an asymmetrical relation (1995, 2001). For although the balance can shift back and forth over time, the fact remains that one party to a conflict will inevitably be stronger than the other. Since all the evidence suggests that negotiation processes function best under conditions of equality or symmetry, and indeed only take place when the contending parties have some form of a mutual veto over outcomes, it is hardly surprising that so few ethnic conflicts have been settled by negotiation (Zartman 1995: 8). What is more, in seeking to reduce the asymmetry between itself and the stronger party, the weaker party to a conflict can end up making things worse for everyone involved. For example, rebel groups often seek to make up for what they lack in terms of resources by intensifying their commitment to the cause. In fact, this is very typical as a negotiation process draws near. In Northern Ireland, the intensity of IRA and loyalist paramilitary activity prior to the 1994 ceasefires is a case in point. However, commitment to the cause can take on a life of its own, and can even become more important than redressing the grievances that gave rise to the conflict in the first place. When this happens – when commitment exceeds grievances as a motivation – negotiation can become almost impossible. Recent events in Chechnya and Iraq provide plenty of support for this thesis. Under such conditions, efforts on the part of the government to redress the grievances that gave rise to the rebellion in the first instance can even be interpreted by the rebels as covert efforts at stymieing devotion to the cause and at undermining their support base (Zartman 1995: 9–10). — 108 —

The Requirement of Publicity Zartman cites a number of other reasons as to why structural asymmetries make negotiations between conflicting ethnic groups so exceedingly difficult. For instance, he argues that although recognition is not normally the major issue for the government, it can be ‘both the top and the bottom line’ for rebel groups. As a result, the government may be able to adopt a more flexible negotiation strategy than the rebels (although presumably much will depend on just how tightly a group’s ethnic identity and its political aspirations are intertwined). My interest, however, is with whether the requirement of publicity can help reduce political asymmetries and hence increase the chances that, once begun, a negotiation process will lead to a successful conclusion. This is a major challenge. After all, one of the most serious objections levelled at deliberative democracy is that it has not done enough (or cannot do enough) to reduce the kinds of structural inequalities (of wealth, power, social standing and so forth) that mar deliberations in normal democratic societies (see, for example, Shapiro 1999). In what follows, however, I argue that the transformative power of publicity can help level the playing field between conflicting groups, thereby increasing the chances that negotiation processes will be successful. Levelling the playing field The idea that publicity has transformative power can be traced to, among other places, nineteenth-century arguments against the secret ballot and for the open vote. In some instances, those arguments were cast in terms of cowardice (Goodin 1992: 127). But particularly as we find them in the work of Mill, they were also cast in terms of a political morality that stresses the obligation voters have to advance the public good rather than simply their own personal preferences and concerns: In any election . . . the voter is under an absolute moral obligation to consider the interest of the public, not his private advantage, and give his vote, to the best of his judgment, exactly as he would be bound to do if he were the sole voter, and the election depended upon him alone. This being admitted, it is at least a prima facie consequence that the duty of voting, like any other public duty, should be performed under the eye and criticism of the public. (Mill 1991 [1861]: 355) For Mill, publicity was justified as a means of ensuring that people would live up to their moral obligation to advance the public interest. In practical terms, it was meant to ensure that people would not argue in public for one policy on the grounds that it was in the common good, and then turn — 109 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies around and vote in secret for some alternative policy that better served their private preferences or interests. As Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin note, Mill’s arguments against the secret vote ‘were pushed aside in the nineteenth century – but not because they were bogus. They were instead outweighed by a competing aspect of the democratic ideal – the egalitarian demand for a revolutionary expansion of the franchise’ (2002: 130). Public voting might have proved successful in a world in which the vast majority of voters were economically independent and hence were not afraid to vote in keeping with their conscience. But as the franchise widened – as the lower social and economic strata gained the right to vote – open voting began to look less and less attractive as a normative ideal. If the poor were only able to vote in public, they could not deviate from the political opinions of their economic masters without risking reprisal. And so the open vote ‘began to look like a trick by which the rich might retain effective electoral power at the same time as they formally conceded the right to vote to the unwashed’ (Ackerman and Fishkin 2002: 130). There is, therefore, a close functional connection between the expansion of the franchise and the rise of the secret ballot, one which remains intact to the present day (but see Brennan and Pettit 1990). In fact, as far as divided societies are concerned, the case for secret ballots is arguably all the stronger – not just because dominant groups may penalise weaker groups who vote against them, but also because groups themselves may impose what Will Kymlicka refers to as ‘internal restrictions’ upon their own members (Kymlicka 1995: 35–44). Powerful elites are often very good at silencing internal dissenters. They are also very good at denying a voice to those who wish to advance their interests on non-ethnic terms (for example, by joining a civil association that is cross-cutting in its membership), since such wishes are often perceived as a threat to their power-base. Although the secret ballot is nowadays the norm, deliberative democrats have sought to retain the spirit, as opposed to the detail, of the argument for the open vote. For example, Ackerman and Fishkin argue that the ‘secret ballot, however, admirable on other grounds, sacrificed something important – a social context (public voting) that encouraged public discussion on the part of every voter’ (2002: 129). In the absence of such a context, voters have no real institutional or structural incentive to think in terms of the common good, or to be guided by anything other than their own private preferences and opinions. In turn, this ‘has eroded the central ideals of democratic citizenship, and in ways that are ultimately incompatible with the satisfactory operation of a democratic government’ (2002: 129). In other words, it has eroded citizens’ sense that they are engaged together in a common political enterprise, and, as a consequence, their willingness to — 110 —

The Requirement of Publicity play their part in carrying the burdens that inevitably come with living in a free, self-governing society. In response, Ackerman and Fishkin have advanced a ‘deliberation day’ proposal (which builds on the deliberative polling exercise discussed in Chapter 4) that seeks to recreate a social context of deliberation in which ordinary citizens might be encouraged to think in terms of the common good, prior to voting in a secret ballot on election day (2002, 2004). That proposal is hypothetical, and therefore remains in need of empirical verification. But whatever evidence eventually emerges about the deliberations of ordinary citizens prior to an election, what will continue to matter is the behaviour of elected representatives. While ordinary voters are not normally expected to defend their preferences to one another, the same is not true of elected representatives. Why the expectation should obtain in one case and not the other is not entirely clear. Yet for present purposes, the important point is that representative institutions normally contain a host of formal and informal mechanisms that require representatives to defend their proposals publicly. In other words, representative institutions are often set up so that they provide a ‘social context’ of the sort that Ackerman and Fishkin advocate for citizens in the public sphere. However, that still leaves us with the worry that representatives may argue one way and vote another. This is particularly so in the case of ethnic parties whose willingness to negotiate in the first instance may be rooted in little more than a pragmatic acceptance that they cannot defeat their political opponents through the use of force. Those parties will typically be highly suspicious of one another, not least of all because of the asymmetrical nature of their relationship. As a result, all sides may fear duplicity and so may practice duplicity. Thus, although voting may be preceded by a period of public deliberation in which representatives offer reasons for and against alternative proposals, there is nothing about the secret ballot that encourages representatives to cast their vote in the public interest. Or, in Mill’s words, there is nothing about the secret ballot that encourages any given representative to live up to their moral obligation ‘to weigh interests not his own; to be guided, in case of conflicting claims, by another rule than his private partialities; to apply, at every turn, principles and maxims which have for their reason of existence the common good’ (Mill 1991 [1861]: 255). On the face of it, this seems fairly damning of deliberative democracy in general and the requirement of publicity in particular: in short, once we accept the need for secret ballots, public deliberation begins to look rather redundant. Yet on closer inspection, what this criticism overlooks is what Jon Elster terms ‘the civilizing force of hypocrisy’ (1998b: 111). — 111 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Elster’s argument can be most clearly presented in two stages (see also Gosseries 2005). The first stage begins from the assumption that the general public holds certain normative assumptions about the kinds of things that elected representatives should or should not say when debating collective problems. In particular, representatives should not claim that a given policy should be adopted simply because that is what they want for themselves, but should instead seek to justify their proposals by appealing to principles and standards that can be generally accepted as in the public interest. As such, public deliberation privileges reasoning over bargaining, or the strength of the better argument over the sheer force of numbers (Elster 1998b: 103–4; see also Goodin 1992: 134). And so, although representatives may not believe what they say – their actual motivations may point in very different directions – they must nevertheless couch their arguments in terms of the common good. To do otherwise is to risk attracting the kind of opprobrium that normally attaches to naked appeals to self-interest in public debates, or losing the votes of those who are susceptible to being swayed by principled argument. In either case, the requirement of publicity provides representatives with good reason keep their real motivations secret and instead to speak to the public interest (Elster 1998b: 102). Now, this conclusion suggests that publicity actually encourages, rather than sanctions, duplicity. However, it also suggests that ‘a deliberative setting can shape outcomes independently of the motives of the participants’ (Elster 1998b: 104), which brings us to the second stage of Elster’s argument. According to Elster, once a representative commits himself in public to a given view, ‘he will be seen as opportunistic if he deviates from it when it ceases to serve his needs’(1998b: 104). Political decision making is not a oneshot game, but a game in which reputations matter, and in which political careers can be ruined at a stroke. This is as true for divided societies as it is for normal societies; arguably, it is more so since a duplicitous politician may end up dead. After all, Gandhi, Michael Collins and Yitzhak Rabin where assassinated not by the opposing side but by their own. Putting these two stages together, we can now see what Elster means when he says that the ‘civilizing force of hypocrisy is a desirable effect of publicity’ (1998b: 111). His point is not that we should extol hypocrisy or duplicity as ends in themselves. Rather, it is that publicity may force representatives to behave more consistently, which, in turn, reduces the worry that representatives will argue in one way and then vote in another. In short, the hope is that, in civilising people’s speech, hypocrisy may eventually civilise their behaviour as well (1998b: 111, 1995: 251; see also Goodin 1992: 132, 135). To the extent that the requirement of publicity can have a transformative effect of this sort, it may help to reduce the kinds of — 112 —

The Requirement of Publicity asymmetries that characterise negotiations between groups in conflict and hence may help to level the playing field. This is not to suggest that publicity can do everything. But when allied to the requirement of reciprocity, it can potentially shape the agreements that emerge in ways that are oriented towards the good of society as a whole. As such, there is reason to think that the requirement of publicity can indeed play its part in helping to create a stronger sense of shared political allegiance among citizens of a divided society. Now, despite the anecdotal evidence that Elster provides in support of his argument, it might be objected that the assumptions upon which it rests are none the less dubious or contingent. Take, for example, the assumption that the general public will frown upon representatives who argue solely in terms of what is good for themselves or those they represent. This, in turn, assumes that ordinary citizens are more moral than elected representatives, an assumption that hardly seems warranted. Yet as Mill pointed out, the fact that ordinary voters may be no better than those they elect may be beside the point. What may count is not that the majority is more moral than the minority, but that ‘a majority of knaves’ are restrained by ‘their involuntary respect for the opinion of an honest minority’ (1991 [1961]: 362). Moreover, this may be doubly true whenever there is uncertainty as to who those in the honest minority are (Elster 1995: 248; cf. Luban 1996: 193). Still, objections may persist. Some representatives may cower in the face of (actual or potential) criticism from an (actual or potential) honest minority of citizens, and hence may well be civilised, ironically enough, by means of their own hypocrisy. Sceptics can respond, however, that although publicity may have this kind of transformative effect on some politicians, some others may be too ‘hard-nosed’ or extreme in their views to pay much attention, and hence may continue to argue in one way while voting in another. As Robert Goodin points out, deliberative democrats have two options at this point. The first is ‘to go the whole hog for a psychological story’ and argue that even more extreme politicians will eventually succumb to the civilising force of hypocrisy (1992: 136). This is the kind of argument that we find in the work of Habermas, who, in turn, draws on the work of cognitive developmental psychologists in order to bolster the case for the universality of a discursive ethics (see, for example, Habermas 1990b; White 1998: 58–68). As Goodin suggests, however, there is no need to invoke anything quite so dramatic (which is just as well, since Habermas himself acknowledges that the developmental approach is, by its very nature, limited in the terms of the sort of confirmation that it can provide). Instead, we can simply take a — 113 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies second option, which builds ‘upon the presumption that people have a certain latent ‘‘moral sense’’ within them’. As Goodin points out, if ‘we are to get a motivational grip on people, there must already be something within them for us to grip onto’. And so it follows that the function of publicity ‘might simply be to appeal to people’s moral sense and to remind them of its requirements’ (Goodin 1992: 137). Of course, sceptics might point to the weakness of this second option and, in particular, to the fact that people ‘who really wanted to behave badly still could’ (Goodin 1992: 138). Moreover, they might also point to the fact that it merely multiplies the number of assumptions that deliberative democrats will have to defend. Up to a point, I agree. However, it should also be remembered that how representatives behave will depend not only on their personal dispositions, but also on the structure of political incentives that confront them. If it is rewarding to both appeal to and act in accordance with the public interest, that is what a great many politicians, including those on the extremes of the political spectrum, will do. Accordingly, if those charged with negotiating peace agreements value the transformative potential of publicity, and would like to see it established as a guiding principle for future political interaction, they should think seriously about whether the institutional procedures that they put in place will actually foster that requirement. In Chapter 7, I show how consociational institutions might be reformed in ways that better enable them to meet the requirement of publicity (and the requirement of reciprocity also). For now, though, there are at least two further issues that need to the addressed: the first, which I discuss only briefly, has to do with the rather obvious fact that ethnic groups will always seek to have their own interests addressed first; the second, which I mentioned briefly in the opening section of this chapter, has to with the seeming superiority of secrecy over publicity for some political purposes. Making secrecy public As we have now seen, there is at least some reason to think that, although representatives may seek to hide their real preferences and motivations behind appeals to the public interest, publicity may nevertheless narrow the gap between their real and stated views. One apparent difficulty with this argument, at least as it currently stands, is that it appears to ask too much of the members of divided societies (and maybe of normal societies as well). In divided societies, ethnic groups normally line up behind their own ethnic parties. In turn, ethnic parties are charged with protecting and promoting the interests of their own ethnic group. However, in so far as this is the usual — 114 —

The Requirement of Publicity story in divided societies, then we must wonder how it fits with the idea that the language of self-interest is incompatible with the requirement of publicity. One way of responding to this difficulty is to point out that many of the claims that ethnic parties make cannot normally be reduced to an aggregation of individual preferences. To see why, all we need to do is to reflect once again on the fact that it would make little sense for an individual person to claim that he or she has a right to national self-determination, to special language rights or a separate education system (see Raz 1986: 207). In this sense, ethnic parties cannot express many of their key political claims in narrowly individualistic terms. On the contrary, they ‘express their selfinterested claims in terms of group interests, which convey some sense that at least they care about some other people besides themselves’ (Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 126). A further way of responding to this difficulty is to point out that although ethnic parties normally seek to advance the interest of their own ethnic group first, this does not preclude them from also caring about the good of society as a whole, or even future generations for that matter (cf. Elster 1998b: 115). Indeed, many claims made by ethnic groups are advanced on this very basis. Ulster unionists do not claim that their aims favour the unionist population in Northern Ireland only, but that those claims are actually the best option for society as a whole. The same kind of argument is made by the Spanish government to the Basques and Catalans, by the Anglophone government in Canada and so on. More generally, elected representatives will often aim to strike a careful balance between enabling people to pursue their own private preferences (some of which will be ethnic in kind) and the need to advance the public good. However, in the absence of publicity, ordinary people cannot know how that balance was struck or what reasons accounted for it. Perhaps more significantly, they cannot know whether the balance favours some members of society over certain others, and hence whether they should trust in the system as a whole. Put more positively, then, the requirement of publicity enables people to decide together how to strike an appropriate balance between being able to pursue their own interest and the need to promote a sense of the common good. As such, it can play a key role in the process by which the members of a divided society try to find common ground. It can help make the moral case for sharing and, moreover, help determine what that sharing might look like. Yet for all of this, it may be objected that any viable political system must also allow for secrecy, at least in some decision-making contexts. There are at least two general arguments for secrecy that need to be considered. As we will see, these arguments are important because — 115 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies they enable us to decide how far publicity ought to be guaranteed, and, by extension, to clarify the ways in which publicity might help in negotiating peace agreements. The first argument for secrecy that needs to be considered inverts the Kantian principle of publicity: some beneficial policies would be defeated if the reasons for them were to become widely known. And so the argument is that secrecy is sometimes necessary to save those policies (Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 101–3). Now, as I have already indicated, those who advocate consociational approaches to managing ethnic conflict often argue in this way. In particular, they claim that secrecy is necessary because it leaves elites free to make the kinds of compromises that divided societies require in order to succeed in the longer run. Arguments from necessity are not confined to consociationalists, however. On the contrary, the idea that secrecy should be endorsed for the sake of ordinary people has a long and varied philosophical history. Although the most famous example is Plato’s argument for the ‘noble lie’, the same line of thinking also underpins the ‘noblesse oblige’ strand within conservative ideology, as well as the ‘government house’ brand of utilitarianism most readily associated with the work of Sidgwick. Like all elitist thinking, the argument from necessity assumes that the reasons behind some policies cannot be comprehended by a politically unsophisticated electorate (or, in the consociational model, a frightened, hostile or volatile electorate). Not that politicians will admit this openly. In many instances they may not even admit it to themselves, but will instead seek to justify keeping reasons secret by pointing to the altruism that motivates their behaviour. However, once we assume the perspective of the alleged beneficiaries of such secrecy, altruism appears far from persuasive. As Sissela Bok argues: We cannot take for granted either the altruism or the good judgement of those who lie to us, no matter how much they intend to benefit us. We have learned that much deceit for private gain masquerades as being in the public interest. We know how deception, even from the most unselfish motive, corrupts and spreads. And we have lived through the consequences of lies told for what were believed to be noble purposes. (1980: 169) Although Bok’s concern is with the lies that politicians tell, her basic point applies just as much to the argument that secrecy is sometimes necessary so that beneficial policies will not be defeated. For one thing, the argument assumes that elites will consistently choose the most beneficial policy, which — 116 —

The Requirement of Publicity is far from guaranteed. Luban captures this point nicely when he writes: ‘No doubt the Wise are few; and the leaders are few; but it hardly follows that the leaders are wise’ (1996: 193). For another, it assumes that there is nothing suspect about policies that can only succeed as long as the reasons for them are kept secret, or that would fail if those reasons were to become generally known (Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 102–3). Of course, as I acknowledged above, conditions in some divided societies may be such that, if the choice is between secrecy and a return to violence, it is clear which of those considerations should win the day. However, because secrecy of this sort neither treats citizens as political equals nor respects their capacity for personal autonomy, it is hard, ultimately, to see how it might further the cause of democracy by denying the very values upon which it rests. Still, as Gutmann and Thompson point out, the fact remains that ‘some policies are necessary, and some secrecy may be necessary for their success’ (1996: 103). Presumably, most of us would accept, for example, that the public should not be told in advance where police have decided to deploy unmarked cars. However, in such cases it is the details of the policy, and not the policy itself, that should be kept secret. The question as to whether undercover surveillance operations are, in principle, justified is one that can and should be openly debated, as should the workings of such policies after an appropriate period of time. Under such conditions, secrecy ‘is justified not only because it is necessary for the policy, but also because the question of whether and in what form it is necessary is itself the subject of public deliberation’ (Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 103–4). The problem with the argument from necessity, therefore, is that it fails to distinguish between the need to deliberate about the reasons behind some particular policy and the actual details of its implementation. In more philosophical language, it fails to distinguish between first- and secondorder levels of justification. By contrast, the second argument that we will now consider does take deliberation very seriously indeed. Indeed, it is based on the view that deliberation is sometimes better served by secrecy than by publicity (Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 114–16; Elster 1998b: 109–10). Although I have argued that publicity tends to replace appeals to what is good for oneself with appeals to the public interest, it may also modify the nature of public deliberation in ways that are not so desirable. More specifically, publicity may make it harder for representatives to back down from a position once they have stated it openly, even if sound reasons are subsequently advanced by those who hold to an alternative view (Elster 1998b: 111). Commenting on the workings of the Constitutional Convention, James Madison made just such an argument for secrecy: — 117 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Had the members committed themselves publicly at first, they would have afterwards supposed consistency required them to maintain their ground, whereas by secret discussion no man felt himself obliged to retain his opinions any longer than he was satisfied of their propriety and truth, and was open to the force of argument. (Ferrand 1964, vol. 3: 479; quoted in Elster 1998b: 109–10) To the extent that publicity forces representatives to ‘maintain their ground’, it not only inhibits them from reflecting on, and responding positively to, the claims of others, but effectively reduces deliberation to the articulation of pre-ordained statements and demands. Instead of a deliberative model in which representatives are free to change their mind in response to reasoned arguments, we end up with a delegate model in which representatives are effectively bound ‘by upstream authorities’ (Elster 1998b: 105). As far as divided societies are concerned, this has a number of serious implications. In a divided society, compromise is everything. However, representatives who change their position will often be viewed as ‘soft’ by some of the members of their own ethnic group, especially by those on the political extremes who are wont to interpret every attempted compromise as a sell-out of group interests and concerns. This has at least two main consequences. First, it tends to punish moderates who seek to build compromises across group lines, and hence tends to undermine the transition to democracy (Horowitz 1985, 1991, 2001). Second, it encourages the use of publicity as a ‘pre-commitment device’ (Elster 1998b: 111). That is, by tying representatives (or ethnic parties) to a particular position, and by making this fact known, groups can try to squeeze concessions from their opponents. However, since this strategy can be adopted by all sides, the chances of arriving at a negotiated compromise may recede accordingly. The argument that deliberation is sometimes better served by secrecy than publicity is formidable. It is, however, in certain crucial respects incomplete. As implied in the above quotation, Madison held that no constitution could have been adopted if the convention had deliberated in public (Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 114). In more recent times, it is possible to imagine those who negotiated, for example, the 1998 Belfast Agreement making just such an argument. Secrecy, we can assume, played a vital role in that it allowed negotiators to speak candidly, to change their positions, and to accept compromises without constantly worrying about what their supporters might say at every turn. Yet while we might be tempted to conclude that in such instances, secrecy trumps publicity, this conclusion is unwarranted. Given that the Agreement was ratified by — 118 —

The Requirement of Publicity referendum on both parts of the island of Ireland, what could, and to some extent did, justify the secrecy was ‘a form of retrospective accountability for the process as well as for its results’ (Gutmann and Thompson 1996: 115). Prospective accountability is generally preferable, enabling citizens to approve secret proceedings prior to their actual commencement. But given the particular circumstances of political life in Northern Ireland, public approval after the fact was arguably the only course available. Thus, the discussion in this chapter suggests that while there are both moral and pragmatic reasons why publicity should be the norm, there may be occasions when it is necessary to opt for secrecy. Perhaps more accurately, what the chapter suggests is a need, sometimes, to strike an appropriate balance between the two. Secrecy can advance deliberation. It can allow a party to accept a loss on today’s agenda in order to gain on tomorrow’s without any accusations from the outside of weakness in concession (Harris and Reilly 1998: 85). However, once negotiations have concluded, parties often struggle to sell an agreement to their respective ethnic groups. The Dayton Accords stand as a notorious example of what is at issue here. But so, too, does the Ohrid Agreement, which failed to gain the allegiance of the large Albanian minority in Macedonia, subsequent to its negotiation in 2001. What these examples suggest is that, although particular details may be negotiated in secret, it may be necessary to take regular breaks in order to let ordinary people know how the negotiations are progressing and to seek critical feedback from them. In this respect, publicity is all the more important, since it can be a strong defence against the challenge of extremists on the flanks who might otherwise find it all the easier to engage in spoiler tactics.

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Chapter 6

Dilemmas of Exclusion

I have argued that deliberative democracy can give citizens the confidence to engage openly and frankly with one another, knowing that their views and opinions will receive a fair hearing. It can, moreover, enable them to accept that, in a democracy, citizens do not have an automatic right to get their way, but must instead seek to convince others of the merits of their claims. Critics argue, however, that deliberative democracy is not nearly as open or inclusive as its defenders claim. In order to deliberate successfully, citizens and representatives must know something about the kinds of political commitments that others are likely to have, and have some appreciation of the kinds of political arguments that those others might find acceptable. Otherwise, it is hard to see how they could engage in meaningful deliberation or produce the kinds of principled compromises that I have argued are so important to divided societies. The concern is, however, that this need for familiarity may result in exclusion since it may tempt dominant individuals or groups to close ranks and exclude those whose arguments seem strange or foreign to them (Taylor 1999; Williams 2000). Deliberative democracy appears, therefore, to give rise to the following dilemma. The more familiar participants are with one another, the more likely it is that their deliberations will be successful. Knowing this, there is a strong temptation for the stronger members of society to exclude the weaker. This dilemma can operate on two levels. On one level, dominant groups may seek to exclude minority groups from participating fully in deliberations about public policy, while on another level, groups of all sizes may seek to silence dissenters within their own ranks. To the extent that deliberative democracy is susceptible to these kinds of concerns, we must therefore doubt whether it provides an appropriate normative framework for dealing with deep divisions and ethnic antagonisms. Since deliberative democracy may lead to exclusion rather than inclusion, it may have disastrous consequences with respect to the task of creating a stronger sense of common national identity. Whereas groups that have been — 120 —

Dilemmas of Exclusion politically silenced or ignored may decide to express their interests on the streets, the failure to afford dissenting voices an equal say may itself lead to the reification and polarisation of competing ethnic identities. This chapter considers how deliberative democrats should respond to this dilemma (the discussion is continued in the next chapter with respect to the interplay between civil society and consociational institutions). To this end, I begin by providing a specifically democratic grounding for the view that it is wrong to exclude a person from political life simply because they belong, or are viewed as belonging, to some particular ethnic group. I then examine in some detail the charge, levelled by critics such as Lyn Sanders and Iris Young, that deliberative democracy is inherently biased against disadvantaged groups and hence is inevitably exclusionary. Having laid out the various aspects of that charge, I consider what a more open and inclusive conception of democratic deliberation might look like. To this end, I consider the important role that narrative might have to play in terms of explaining and redressing the sources of ethnic conflict. I conclude, however, that although narrative has a crucial role to play in divided societies, the appeal to general political principles and standards cannot ultimately be avoided. Political exclusion Although not all ethnic conflicts are caused by political exclusion, a great many certainly are. The ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland stemmed in no small measure from a Westminster-style political system that effectively denied the Irish nationalist minority a political voice (McGarry and O’Leary 1995a). Similarly, the violent conflict that occurred in Macedonia in the spring and summer of 2001 was rooted in the failure of the Macedonian majority to meet the demands of the Albanian minority for greater rights, in particular in the educational sector and in terms of representation in public administration, especially in the police (Bieber 2005). Or, to cite a further (and arguably more extreme) example, the domination of Burmese political life by a succession of brutal military juntas has not only marginalised large sections of the majority Burman ethnic group, but has also led many smaller ethnic groups, including the Karen and Chin, to take up arms in defence of their ethnic homeland (Steinberg 2001). This list of examples could easily be expanded to include, for example, the Russian minority in Estonia, the Kurdish minority in Turkey, the Arab minority in Israel, the Malay minority in Singapore and the AfricanAmerican minority in the United States. These cases differ from one another in a great many respects – historically, culturally, economically, — 121 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies politically and so forth. And yet each in its own way gives rise to the thought that it is wrong to exclude citizens from full participation in the democratic process simply because they share, or are viewed as sharing, some particular ethnic group identity or affiliation. What is not so clear, however, is how this thought might be grounded. More specifically, what is not so clear is how it might be grounded from within the particular account of democracy that I offer in this book. Before proceeding, it is perhaps worth noting that it is not always wrong to exclude citizens – or, more usually, those who claim to represent them – from the democratic process. In Belgium, for example, the Vlaams Blok was not only excluded but banned because of its racism and xenophobia, whereas more recently, the Basque separatist party, Batasuna, was excluded and banned because of its connections with the Basque paramilitary group, ETA (a connection which it continues to deny). In such cases, it can be argued that citizens are justifiably excluded from the democratic process, not so much on account of their ethnicity, but because of the particular ways in which they seek to give political expression to that ethnicity. How, then, might we ground the thought that it is wrong to exclude someone simply because of their ethnicity? In order to answer this question, we need first to be clear about what we mean by exclusion or what we take it to involve. One way in which we might think about exclusion is in terms of the content of a particular decision. For instance, the government of a divided society might decide that because ‘a democratic state requires for its most effective functioning a single public language’ (Barry 1999: 137), the language of the majority ethnic group should be made the official language of the state. Now, on the face of it, the content of this decision might seem unjustifiably exclusionary, since it seems to preclude the members of minority linguistic groups from fully participating in public life. However, no such judgement can be made simply by considering the content of the decision (which is not to deny that content is important). Before such a judgement could be made, we would first need to know something more about the procedure by which it came about. In making the decision to opt for a single state language, the government might have genuinely sought to treat the good and interest of each citizen with equal consideration and respect. To the extent that it succeeded in this goal, it will have satisfied the value of intrinsic equality. Moreover, to the extent that it weighed reasons for and against the policy on their own merits, it will also have satisfied the requirement of reciprocity. However, democratic decisions turn not simply on how decisions are made, but also on who it is that makes them (Dahl 1989, 2000). The government may have satisfied the value of intrinsic equality and may have met the requirement of — 122 —

Dilemmas of Exclusion reciprocity. But that is not sufficient to render a decision democratic, since we would also need to know whether all those who are bound by the decision really did have an equal and effective say in its making. Without this further piece of information, it is impossible to tell if the decision is exclusionary or not. If the representatives of the minority linguistic groups were included as equal partners in the decision – if, that is, they were treated as the best judges of their own interests – then the value of personal autonomy will have been satisfied. And again, if the process of deliberation was open and transparent, and perhaps even afforded representatives adequate opportunities to consult with their own constituents as the process proceeded, then the requirement of publicity will also have been satisfied. Under such conditions, a decision cannot be considered exclusionary since all those who are bound by it will have had an equal and effective say in its making, whatever it is that they may have eventually decided. However, if those conditions were not met, the decision that resulted would be both exclusionary and undemocratic, even if it measured up to some other standard of what it is that a good, fair or just decision ideally ought to look like. Thus, this way of approaching the question of exclusion suggests three points. First, it suggests that what is important in terms of assessing the democratic quality of a decision is not just its content, but the procedure by which it was brought about. Second, it suggests a point about measurement. If we simply look to the content of a decision, we have no real way of knowing whether that content is exclusionary or not. What can tell us whether or not a decision is exclusionary, however, is whether the members of some particular group were excluded from the process by which it was made. Finally, all of this enables us to say just why it is wrong to exclude citizens from full participation in political life simply because of their ethnicity. Indeed, the answer should have been clear all along: it is wrong to exclude them because to do so is not democratic. If we take democracy seriously, then we must respect the value of intrinsic equality and the value of personal autonomy. If either of those values is ignored, then the decision is not democratic. Of course, in divided societies, dominant groups often claim that they know what is best for society as a whole, and so feel justified in taking decisions without the express consent of subjugated groups. But from a democratic perspective, such exclusion is simply wrong since it ignores the value of personal autonomy. In all likelihood, groups that make such claims will also fail (or simply fail to bother) to treat the interests of each citizen with equal consideration. For as Robert Dahl argues, ‘the record of human experience’ argues not only against the view that dominant groups can — 123 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies advance the interests of subjugated groups, but also against the view that dominant groups will genuinely try to advance those interests, a point which the following quotation poignantly captures: I cannot imagine a reasonable defence of the proposition that the apartheid regime in South Africa ever adequately cared for the fundamental interests of those who were subject to their rule and yet lacked all means of participating in the making of the laws that subjected them to the misery, humiliation and torment that was their lot. (Dahl 1989: 104) In short, what Dahl admonishes us to see is that there is simply no good reason to think that the members of subjugated groups would not protect their own interests at least as well as, and in all likelihood far better than, those who dominate them. Or to paraphrase Mill, we have little reason to believe that dominant groups ever, for an instant, look at any question with the eyes of anyone other than their own (Mill 1991 [1861]: 246). Of course, Dahl and Mill may be proven wrong in some particular cases. However, the point remains that unless all the citizens of a divided society have an equal and effective say within the decision-making process, there can be no guarantee that the decisions that result will not be exclusionary. This much is undeniable. However, as I indicated in my opening remarks, some critics have been less than convinced by the way in which deliberative democrats have framed the values of equality and autonomy. More specifically, critics argue that, despite the emphasis that deliberative democrats have rightly placed on the requirement of publicity, their conception of reciprocity is so restrictive that deliberative democracy ends up being exclusionary none the less. Let us turn now to this objection. Is deliberative democracy exclusionary? The argument I present in this book has sought to show deliberative democracy in the most favourable of lights – as a highly tolerant and reflective, open and inclusive, political outlook. Moreover, it has also sought to show that deliberative democracy has tremendously important, normative implications for divided societies striving to make the transition from conflict to democracy. However, as Charles Taylor points out, there is also something intrinsic to democracy in general that should give deliberative democrats some considerable cause for concern: Democracy is inclusive because it is the government of all the people; but paradoxically, this is also the reason that democracy tends towards — 124 —

Dilemmas of Exclusion exclusion. The exclusion is a by-product of the need, in self-governing societies, of a high degree of cohesion. Democratic states need something like a common identity. (1998: 143) The point here is extremely important because it links the problem of exclusion to the central thesis of this book (that deliberative democracy can help create a stronger sense of national identity among the citizens of divided societies). In Chapter 2, I made the point that all political systems require certain sacrifices from their members. They must, for example, pay taxes, serve on juries and, more generally, reciprocate benefits and burdens when the need arises. In the ultimate act of sacrifice, they may even be called upon to lay down their life in defence of their society. Yet, whereas an authoritarian regime can simply force its members to make such sacrifices, this option is not available under democratic systems. Since democracy means government by the people, and all of the people equally, it is undemocratic for some members to be under the control of others. Such control might facilitate decision making, but it is not democratically legitimate. Now, as we have already seen, the only thing that will motivate the members of a democratic society to do their fair share is a strong sense of common national identity. In large modern democracies, that identity will naturally involve a tremendous leap of faith, or act of imagination, since members will never meet, let alone know, the vast majority of those for whom they may be asked to sacrifice so much (Anderson 1983). Nevertheless, members must view themselves as sharing such an identity if they are to play their part in helping their society to succeed. The downside is, of course, that democratic societies become extremely vulnerable when some members believe that others are not living up to their commitments – for example, when they believe that others are abusing the social welfare system, or are benefiting as employers from a good labour market without assuming any of the social costs. This kind of mistrust not only tends to create extreme tensions, but also threatens to unravel the complex network of norms and mores upon which democratic societies rely in order to function successfully (Taylor 1998: 144–5). According to Taylor, these kinds of considerations give rise to the following ‘standing dilemma’: on the one hand, democracies require their members to share a common national identity; but, on the other, that requirement ‘provides a strong temptation to exclude those who cannot or will not fit easily into the identity with which the majority feels comfortable, or believes can hold them together’ (Taylor 1999: 279–80). Put another way, democratic polities require not simply differentiation from other polities but — 125 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies some degree of internal homogeneity if they are to survive and flourish. The trouble is, however, that the demand for homogeneity tends to narrow the range of acceptable interpretations of a society’s national identity and corresponding forms of political expression. As I suggested in my opening remarks, deliberative democracy appears to deepen this dilemma, or at least appears to be particularly susceptible to it. In a deliberative democracy, members must not only decide together, but deliberate together. They must, in other words, seek to build solutions that are mutually acceptable rather than simply vote in accordance with their private preferences (as we saw in Chapter 4, those solutions will, in all likelihood, be composite or multi-layered). But this, in turn, supposes a reasonable degree of familiarity among participants. In particular, it supposes that they will be familiar with the kinds of needs and commitments that other participants are likely to have, and hence with the kinds of reasons that might or might not count as acceptable to them. Without this kind of knowledge, it is difficult to see how the members of a democratic polity could engage in meaningful deliberation (Taylor 1998: 144; cf. Cohen 1997b: 414). However, to the extent that familiarity is a necessary condition of successful deliberation, the worry is that disadvantaged groups at the margins of society may be excluded simply because their version of what counts as a good argument conflicts with the version held by dominant groups at the centre. In recent years, some critics have transformed this worry into a wellhoned objection. Those critics are not hostile to deliberation per se. But they do reject the way in which deliberative theorists have, in the main, conceived of it. In its most basic form, the charge is that by insisting that participants justify their proposals by providing reasons that others can accept, deliberative democrats have ignored the fact that some participants will find it harder than others to meet this condition. Difference democrats have been particularly alive to this concern, and have stressed the different ways in which deliberative democratic theorists have failed to recognise and accommodate the particular perspectives of groups that historically have been disadvantaged (Dryzek 2000: 57). In what follows, I distinguish three forms that this basic objection takes. Together, they present deliberative democrats with a formidable challenge. In laying out these three forms I have drawn primarily on the work of Lynn Sanders (1997), Iris Young (2000) and Melissa Williams (2000). 1. Deliberative democrats have failed to pay sufficient attention to the distinction between external and internal forms of exclusion. Democracy is meant to be inclusive in the sense that all those who are bound by a decision should have an equal say in its making. However, actual democratic systems often violate — 126 —

Dilemmas of Exclusion this norm. The most obvious instances of exclusion are those that physically prohibit some individuals or groups from taking part in the decision-making process. The use of a first-past-the-post electoral system is a classic means of excluding minority ethnic groups from legislature and government in divided societies, given the tendency for ethnic groups (who will inevitably vary in size) to line up directly behind their respective ethnic parties. But in divided societies, the familiar problems associated with money and influence will also have a role to play. When Michael Walzer argues that not much can get done in politics nowadays without substantial sums of money, his remarks apply not just to stable democratic systems but also to societies in which the foundations of democracy are not secure (Walzer 1999: 63–6; see also Shapiro 1999: 34). Deliberative democrats are alive to ways in which social and economic inequalities combine with formal institutional biases to exclude disadvantaged groups from full participation in deliberation and decision making. For example, Gutmann and Thompson supplement and constrain their otherwise procedural theory of deliberative democracy by means of three substantive principles of social justice: basic liberty, basic opportunity and equal opportunity (Gutmann and Thompson 1996). In a similar vein, Cohen argues that restrictions on private donations to political parties, allied to progressive tax measures that serve to limit inequalities of wealth, may be required in order to ensure that political opportunities and powers remain sufficiently independent of economic and social position (Cohen 1997a: 69). Or again, Ackerman and Fishkin devote a great deal of care and attention to thinking through the logistics of their ‘deliberation day’ proposal in order to ensure that participants will not be unfairly constrained by financial or other formal impediments (2002, 2004). Even Habermas, who otherwise is so scrupulous in his efforts to avoid placing any substantive constraints on the outcome of democratic deliberation, allows that social and economic rights may need to be protected before citizens can effectively utilise their civil and political rights (Habermas 1996: 123; but see Habermas 1998a: 58–9). Clearly, then, deliberative democrats have sought to expose sources of political exclusion and have pressed for institutional change. In Young’s terms, they have been alive to the problem of ‘external exclusion’. In her view, however, deliberative democrats have been far less attentive to those forms of ‘internal exclusion’ that sometimes occur even when group members are nominally included in the decision-making process. Intentionally or otherwise, the more powerful members of a deliberating body often ignore or dismiss or patronise the statements and expressions of the less powerful and hence effectively exclude them from the decision that — 127 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies results (Young 2000: 52–5). Sanders is even more damning. Even if, she argues, deliberative democrats do notice the inequalities associated with class, race and gender, and even if they do recommend distributive policies that aim at lessening their effects, deliberation still provides no solution for, and possibly exacerbates, the hardest problem for democrats. She writes: This problem is how more of the people who routinely speak less – who through various mechanisms or accidents of birth and fortune, are least expressive in and most alienated from conventional American politics – might take part and be heard and how those who typically dominate might be made to attend to the views of others. (Sanders 1997: 352) In Sanders’s view, deliberative democracy provides no answer to this question. That is, it provides no solution to the insidious prejudices that lead some members to hear some arguments but not others, even when material and other external inequalities have been addressed (Sanders 1997: 353). Consequently, although it can be argued that the problem of external exclusion is not peculiar to deliberative democracy, but is instead a problem that all democratic models have to confront, critics like Sanders and Young maintain that deliberative democracy may serve to multiply the levels of exclusion that disadvantaged groups face. 2. Deliberative democracy is unduly conservative in privileging general over particular interests. According to deliberative democrats, one of the primary benefits of an inclusive process of public reasoning and discussion is that it can lead to a deeper sense of political solidarity or cohesion. On the one hand, the requirement that participants justify their proposals in terms that others can accept tends to orient discussion to the common good and hence away from the pursuit of private, sectional interests. On the other hand, it fosters virtues like empathy, civility and mutual respect by encouraging participants to see things as others see them and hence to take an expanded view of their political life together (see, for example, Cohen 1997a: 68–9). Clearly, a deeper sense of political solidarity is a positive boon indeed, especially in divided societies struggling to strengthen the transition to democracy. However, as Sanders, Young and Williams each argues, deliberative democracy may have no such effect. Far from encouraging solidarity and cohesiveness, it may actually exacerbate the problem of political exclusion. As Sanders argues, the deliberative emphasis on what people share in common increases the risks that the perspectives of minorities will be denied, especially if those perspectives are unsettling or discomfiting, or if the members of dominant groups have an interest in ignoring them (Sanders 1997: 361). As we have already seen, this problem is endemic to democracy as — 128 —

Dilemmas of Exclusion such. However, according to Young, deliberative democracy is particularly susceptible, because, by privileging speech that is rational and general over speech that is emotive and particular, it ‘tends to enact internal exclusions of style and idiom’ (2000: 56). To the extent that this occurs, people’s ‘contributions to a discussion tend to be excluded from serious consideration not because of what is said, but how it is said’ (2000: 56). Young and Sanders associate speech that is rational and general with dominant groups in society (especially white, middle-class men) and speech that is emotive and particular with disadvantaged groups (such as women, ethnic minorities and the poor). Empirically speaking, this characterisation may or may not be correct (Miller 2000: 153). Nevertheless, what seems far less debatable is their claim that it is only by focusing on the particular interests of the disadvantaged that problems of political exclusion can be successfully addressed. Where the terms of debate stymie or altogether prohibit disadvantaged groups from expressing their vital interests in ways that are true to their own particular experience, the members of those groups are likely to consider the decisions that result to be unjust. The injustice in question cannot simply be reduced to the fact that some interests may go unaddressed, however. For even when group interests are presented as objective, as they generally are, they often have important subjective dimensions as well (Ross 2001: 163). There is often a close link between what a group regards as being in its best interest and how it conceives of its own identity, which is why, for example, disputes over such things as language rights in Canada or the public display of flags and emblems in Northern Ireland can become so contentious. However, since group identities are bound up with the particular cultural contexts in which they are embedded, it follows that some interests are best expressed in culturally specific terms, rather than in terms of the more general norms and principles specified by deliberative democracy. There are, therefore, good grounds for thinking that, by privileging general over particular reasons, deliberative democracy is unacceptably conservative. The trouble for deliberative democrats does not end there, however. According to Williams, deliberative democrats have failed to provide an independent moral standard (or set of standards) by which participants might assess the quality of the reasons offered in support of specific claims or proposals. Yet, in the absence of such a standard, what people will be likely to accept as good or bad reasons will often turn out to depend on who is presenting those reasons to them. It may well be that privileged groups will be predisposed to view the reasons offered by disadvantaged groups as bad reasons (a) where they diverge from their own and (b) where accepting those reasons may serve to undermine their — 129 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies position of relative advantage (Williams 2000: 138). Young and Sanders both make similar points. However, what is distinctive about Williams’s position is her suggestion that there may be an even deeper philosophical layer to this problem. Despite its normative attractiveness, deliberative democracy is often charged with being empirically hopeless. But now it seems that the ideal itself may be conceptually incoherent. The absence of an agreed standard by which competing reasons might be assessed threatens to undermine a fundamental assumption upon which deliberative democracy itself rests – that the soundness and propriety of one set of reasons over another will be self-evident (Williams 2000: 138; cf. Weale 2004: 90–5). 3. When it comes down to it, deliberative democracy is not all that democratic. As we saw in Chapter 3, on one liberal version of the democratic process, ordinary citizens should refrain from engaging directly in political decision making and confine themselves to electing political parties to govern in their name for fixed terms of office (Riker 1982). Although such restraint may make democratic politics more efficient – according to its defenders, it avoids, among other things, imposing unrealistic demands on the time and attention of ordinary citizens – it also makes it more elitist. The idea of a benevolent group of ruling elites is a familiar one from the history of political philosophy, and in practice continues to shape the workings of most modern democratic systems, including power-sharing systems (a point to which I return at length in the next chapter). Deliberative democrats doubt, however, that even liberal elites will consistently use their privileged position to improve the lot of the weaker members of society. But even if they did, such a system would fail to satisfy the value of personal autonomy. In response, they argue for a more populist model of the democratic process in which the decisions that result can, in a meaningful sense, be understood as expressions of the will of the people – where ‘the people’ is construed, not narrowly in terms of elites and the particular interests that they represent, but in terms of the full diversity of views and opinions in society. This aspiration towards a populist model of deliberative democracy is most fully elaborated by Ju¨rgen Habermas in his monumental work Between Facts and Norms, as well as in the work of those who follow his ideas most closely (see, for example, Bohman 1996). It is also central to the thinking of, for example, David Miller (1993, 2000) and John Dryzek (1990, 2000). In Sanders’s view, however, deliberative democracy is not really all that populist or even all that democratic. On the contrary, she contends that it has the propensity to be just as elitist as the elitism that it purportedly rejects (Sanders 1997: 354–7). The point of departure for her criticism is Joseph Schumpeter (1976 [1942]). As she acknowledges, Schumpeter is a somewhat predictable target, and certainly there are more sympathetic — 130 —

Dilemmas of Exclusion interpretations available than the one that she presents (see, for example, Shapiro 2003: 57–64). Nevertheless, straw men have their uses, and certainly the conclusions that she draws should be taken seriously by deliberative democrats. According to Sanders, ‘Schumpeter neatly exemplifies three timehonored charges against democracy’, by which she presumably means against populist conceptions of democracy rather than against democracy per se. These charges are that the masses (a) are bound to get out of control because of they are volatile and ill-disciplined, (b) are incapable of rational argument because most of them lack the requisite levels of intelligence, and (c) cannot see beyond their own narrow interests and concerns and hence cannot discern the common good (Sanders 1997: 354–5). Now, although deliberative democrats claim to reject the elitism that follows as a corollary to these three charges, Sanders argues that deliberation merely replaces one form of elitism with another: Because of its connotations of cautiousness and order – because deliberation is by definition not hasty – it establishes a standard to invoke in complaints about unruly or excessive behaviour. Deliberation also connotes thoughtfulness. Appeals to deliberation amount to demands for a certain kind of discourse in democratic political settings: reasonable, foresighted, steady, and oriented to a common, not sectarian, problem. (Sanders 1997: 356) The charge is that although deliberative democrats argue that as many people as possible should be involved in deliberation about collective problems, ultimately the standards and norms that they insist upon may have a destructive effect on the most vulnerable groups in society while simultaneously consolidating the dominant position of others (Sanders 1997: 348). Otherwise put, the charge is that, when it comes down to it, deliberative democracy is not really all that populist. In so far as it favours forms and styles of reasoning and discussion typical of historically dominant groups, it merely substitutes one form of democratic elitism for another, and hence does little to alter an undesirable status quo in ways that might make for a more equitable and inclusive society. In turn, this criticism directly challenges (and in Sanders’s view undermines) one of the most basic claims made by deliberative theorists – that their preferred conception of democracy ‘is capable of reaching decisions that are more socially just than those reached in existing liberal democracies, where the distribution of political power tends to reflect the distribution of wealth and other forms of social advantage’ (Miller 2000: 144). — 131 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Expanding the content of democratic deliberation Taken together, then, these three criticisms raise some serious doubts about the prospects for deliberative democracy in divided societies. In particular, they place a serious question mark next to the accounts of reciprocity and publicity that I presented in Chapters 4 and 5 respectively. According to those accounts, participants should aim to appeal openly and honestly to common political principles when justifying or critiquing alternative political proposals. But now it would appear that the impact of those principles may itself be a source of political exclusion, consolidating the position of the stronger members of society while simultaneously erasing the particular interests and experiences of the weaker. In response, both Sanders and Young argue that if deliberation is to play its part in creating a more just society, then the range of permissible forms of political expression must be expanded so that the particular, situated perspectives of disadvantaged groups can emerge more clearly. For Sanders, ‘testimony’ can enable disadvantaged groups to tell their own story in their own way, without requiring them to look for common principles or standards that typically play into the hands of the more advantaged members of society (Sanders 1997: 371–2). Similarly, Young has made much of the virtues of greeting, rhetoric and narrative (which is roughly equivalent to what Sanders means by testimony) in terms of their capacity to identify internal exclusions and to foster mutual understanding across differences in identity (Young 2000: 56f.). Accordingly, the task is to determine the degree to which deliberative democracy must stress the appeal to common political principles, and the extent to which it can and should admit alternative forms of communication of the sort that Young and Sanders advocate (Dryzek 2000: 25). The case that I want to put forward here accepts that deliberative democracy must make room for alternative forms of political expression. However, there are two main reasons why the appeal to general principles must remain central to deliberative democracy: first, collective decisions cannot be made simply by greeting one another, engaging in rhetoric or telling stories, but must instead involve a move from the particular to the general; second, greetings, rhetoric and storytelling may themselves be a source of wrongful exclusion, unless we insist that they, too, must involve a move from the particular to the general. To make this case, I will begin by focusing on narrative, which, in Young’s view, ‘is often the only vehicle for understanding the particular experiences of those in particular social situations, experiences not shared by those situated differently, but which they must understand in order to do — 132 —

Dilemmas of Exclusion justice’ (2000: 73–4). Rather than consider Young’s own work on narrative, I want instead to consider Marc Howard Ross’s fascinating work on the role that narrative plays both in terms of understanding the sources of ethnic conflict and in terms of assessing the possibilities for constructive solutions (Ross 2001, 2002). As a political psychologist working in the field of conflict studies, Ross is, as he tells us, ‘particularly interested in how people make sense of complex, emotionally powerful events and why different, seemingly contradictory, accounts of what seems to be the same event so frequently coexist’ (2002: 303). Those accounts are often referred to as ‘narratives’, which, in simple terms, can be defined as the stories that people tell in order to explain particular events. Narratives are more than simple stories, however, because the powerful images they invoke can reveal a great deal about the threats to identity that drive ethnic conflict, about what motivates a group to act in one way and not another, and about their deepest fears and greatest aspirations for the future. All powerful narratives invoke the past as a means of making sense of the present. In telling of heroes and martyrs, or of battles won or lost, they stand as a warning of what can happen to us if we fail to remain vigilant. And so Jews continue to commemorate the sacking of the Second Temple in AD 70, Serbs continue to emphasise the defeat of Prince Lazar in Kosovo in 1389, and Quebeckers continue to mark the English victory over the French on the Plains of Abraham in 1759. In an extreme form of remembrance, or what Vakim Volkan refers to as a group’s ‘chosen trauma’, Shi’ites annually perform acts of ritualised self-flagellation on the anniversary of the martyrdom of their religious leader, al-Husayn ibn’Ali, in 61 AH (AD 680) (Volkan 1997: 49; Ross 2002: 306; more generally, see Ignatieff 1994). Narratives therefore build on collective memories of what are believed to be actual events in order to cope with the fears and anxieties, along with the real trauma and loss, that ethnic conflict brings (Ross 2001: 165, 2002: 308). As such, what matters is not so much historical accuracy, but the sense of meaning and control that a connection to the past affords. British unionists, for example, often credit King William of Orange with saving British democracy and the Protestant ascendancy at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, despite the fact that William was Dutch, that he received the support of the Pope and that Britain was not a democracy at that time. In one sense, of course, this tendency to evoke the emotional, rather than the chronological, immediacy of the past is understandable. We do not have unmediated access to the social world in the way that we might have access to the physical world of brute facts (if, indeed, we have unmediated access to brute facts). Instead, we must inevitably appeal to some larger — 133 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies interpretative framework, horizon or world view that we accept, or have come to accept, as a valid reading of our experiences. But assuming that interpretative frameworks of this sort are, in essence, cultural constructions, and assuming that culture can be understood as a historically transmitted pattern of meaning, then there is nothing unusual about connecting past experiences to present emotions and future hopes, or of subsuming physical events to social meaning (Taylor 1985a, 1989). The fact that we do not have unmediated access to the social world means, of course, that there is always room for interpretative dispute. What is unusual about divided societies, however, is just how wide that room typically turns out to be. Partly, this is because the causes of ethnic conflict can be extremely complex, with many potential variables at play. But it is also because the fears and anxieties that conflicts bring (many of which are justifiably grounded in the experience of rape, torture, ethnic expulsions and even attempted genocide) can lead groups to look increasingly inwards, sometimes using what are small objective differences to mark large social distinctions, rather than leading them to seek to discover what they share in common (Ross 2001: 161–2). One way in which we can make sense of this tendency to look inward – this tendency to allow the desire for certainty to trump the capacity for narrative accuracy – is in terms of what Ross calls ‘psychocultural dramas’, which he defines as ‘conflicts over competing and apparently irresolvable claims that come to engage the central elements of a group’s historical experience, contemporary identity, and suspicions and fears about an opponent’ (2001: 167). In its early stages, an ethnic conflict may seem to external observers to amount to nothing more than a conflict over competing claims to rights and resources. In the Basque Country, for example, there are strong underlying economic stimuli for conflict, just as there are in Latin American countries such as Mexico, Columbia and Peru. But as the conflict progresses, those claims may become increasingly connected to central elements of a group’s identity. When this happens, an ethnic conflict is transformed into a psychocultural drama whose content involves non-negotiable cultural claims that cannot be settled by reference to more general rules or overarching standards – which is another way of saying that, when culture and identity become deeply politicised, compromise can be very hard to come by (Ross 2001: 167–8). Psychocultural dramas are therefore deeply polarising events. For example, the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland began as a dispute over civil rights. But as the conflict deepened, the competing demands of the two communities became increasingly linked to the more emotionally powerful question as to whether Northern Ireland should become part of a united Ireland — 134 —

Dilemmas of Exclusion or whether the union with Great Britain should be maintained. At a deeper level still, their demands became increasingly embedded in their respective cultural values and aspirations – their core symbols, rituals, places, objects and so forth – thereby precipitating Northern Ireland into a bloody conflict that, over the course of almost thirty years, would cost in the region of three-and-a-half thousand lives. Examples could easily be multiplied. Ross himself tells us of his interest in such cases as Israel’s opening of an archeological tunnel under the Al Asqa mosque in Jerusalem, the flying of the confederate flag over the South Carolina state capitol, and ethnically based land claims in Kenya’s Rift Valley (2001: 128). Dramas of this sort can easily give rise to the kind of zero-sum mentality that bedevils the prospects for successful conflict management and resolution in divided societies. There are at least two crucial points that follow from this discussion. First, narratives are important. In fact, it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that we ignore them at our peril, since they are the windows through which we can begin to make sense of the psychocultural dramas that lie at the heart of many ethnic conflicts. As such, narratives provide crucial insights into people’s fears and aspiration, their motivations and the motivations they attribute to others, and their willingness to act in some ways but not in others. More technically, narratives play at least three important roles in ethnic conflicts: they are causes, reflectors and exacerbaters. As causes, they ‘play a causal role in the conflict process when they frame cognition and emotions that structure and limit the actions individuals and groups consider as plausible’ (Ross 2002: 314). Consequently, when ‘narratives portray no possible common ground’, when the psychocultural dramas they express are mutually exclusive, ‘there will be no search for alternatives to fighting’ (2002: 314). As reflectors, narratives tell us something about how groups in conflict see the world and one another. As such, they contain important clues about the central fears and concerns of the parties to a conflict, and help identify both barriers to change and opportunities for constructive conflict management and potential conflict resolution (Ross 2002: 315). Finally, as exacerbaters, ‘narratives emphasise differences among the parties and support continuing hostility and escalating responses’ (Ross 2002: 315). When groups insist that their religion is the only true religion, or that a disputed territory is their appointed place and theirs alone, there can be little hope for the future. A second important point is this. Although narratives have deep roots in the culture, history and experience of particular ethnic groups, they can and do change over time. The narratives associated (respectively) with the Zionist movement in Israel and the Irish nationalist movement in Northern Ireland have changed considerably in recent years, resulting in significant — 135 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies advances in conflict resolution (see, for example, Lustick 2002; O’Leary 2005a). However, narratives do not necessarily change when confronted directly, because, as Ross points out, ‘simply telling people that their version of events is wrong is rarely successful because there is often great emotional attachment to an account’ (2002: 317). For example, in a debate over the causes of social inequality, a white American could say to a black American that ‘my ancestors didn’t come here until 1919’. However, what the black American might actually be looking for is not retribution, but acknowledgement. What the white person might have said is something like, ‘Although my ancestors didn’t come here until 1919, I recognise that I have benefited, as a white person, from the legacy of slavery.’ Thus, what people often seek when they tell their stories is not correction, but acknowledgement or recognition of the deep feelings and threats that a group feels to its identity. As the experience of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggests, this can be painful for all sides, and can, in the first instance at least, heighten the sense of insecurity that the parties to a conflict already feel. In other words, the process of telling stories can succumb to what Cass Sunstein terms the ‘law of group polarisation’ (2003). Over time, however, acknowledgement can help lower the intensity that surrounds a conflict, and hence allow for a more benign arrangement of the elements of a group’s narrative to take place. For this to happen, ‘each side must take on the perspective of the other, and learn that there is someone to talk to on the other side and something to talk about’ (Ross 2002: 317). In other words, the parties to a conflict must at some level come to appreciate the need for reciprocity in political life along with the mutual respect it can express. With this, of course, we arrive back at the central question that this chapter seeks to address, namely whether deliberative democracy, and in particular its emphasis on general principles, is inherently exclusionary. The objections raised by Sanders, Young and Williams clearly suggest that a deliberative model that only admitted appeals to general principles would be far too narrow, since, in all likelihood, some people will find it harder than others to express their political views and opinions on such terms (although there is certainly a need to explore the empirical basis for this suggestion at much greater length). What is more, as Ross’s arguments strongly suggest, listening to the ways in which people tell their stories in their own voices may itself be an essential step in building constructive solutions to the myriad problems that divided societies face. And yet, as I will now argue, although deliberative democracy must, therefore, make room for particular perspectives, it should not do so unconditionally.

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Dilemmas of Exclusion From particular stories to general principles Ross enables us to see that narratives can be extremely important in understanding the causes of ethnic conflict and in assessing the opportunities for managing those conflicts constructively. However, as Ross himself points out, a single common narrative will not emerge from, nor should it be the goal of, such a process. When there are strong differences in how ethnic groups see the world, it is important that these differences be appropriately acknowledged rather than subsumed within a single, overarching narrative: Rather than one joint narrative, the goal should be that the several narratives become less polarised, hostile and distrustful. Perhaps they should have more common elements, but more importantly, they should have a more nuanced language and one that suggests, or at least permits, strategies for interaction and mutual adjustment. (Ross 2002: 319) The creation of a context in which narratives can become less polarised is undoubtedly vital to reducing conflict and securing peace and democracy. As we saw in Chapter 2, this is no easy task, not least of all because ‘the movement from crisis to redressive mechanisms is most often slow or ineffective and the crisis remains unresolved’ (Ross 2001: 171). Here, however, my interest is not in redressive mechanisms or patterns of conflict de-escalation more generally (although these are certainly important), but with determining the degree to which deliberative democracy should admit alternative forms of communication such as narrative. In the light of the foregoing considerations, it can only be concluded that any convincing model of deliberative democracy must make room for narrative. There are, however, two important qualifications. First, narrative is not a substitute for public reasoning and discussion of the sort that deliberative democracy demands. Narratives change and evolve over time. In the ideal case, they come to include more nuanced views of the other side and hence may help ethnic groups to imagine a brighter future together. But even if narratives do become more nuanced, public policy cannot be based on stories. Rather, public policy can only be based on general political principles, since those principles can be shared in a way that narratives cannot be shared. Moreover, general political principles can be held much more constant over time. Thus, because narratives sometimes change very quickly, and since they cannot form a common point of reference to which citizens and representatives can point in deciding matters of public policy, they can only be — 137 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies afforded a subordinate role within a deliberative democratic framework. However, although that role may be subordinate, it remains crucially important. Where people are willing to listen with respect to the stories that other people tell, narrative can create a space within which it becomes just that bit easier to identify shared political principles. Admittedly, this assumes that people already share some political principles; and it further assumes that narratives can underpin different sets of political preferences. However, in so far as these conditions hold, there is reason to think that narrative can play its part in creating the kinds of shareable goods that I have argued are so important to the prospects for democracy in divided societies. Second, although deliberative democracy should make room for narrative, there are limits to the kinds of narratives that it can admit. As we have seen, narratives enable group members to make sense of their present fears and insecurities by drawing on the experiences of the past. And so, by heightening group cohesion and solidarity, those experiences enable members to present a united front to the world. However, the cost of a united front is the pressure of internal conformity. Admittedly, all groups demand some level of conformity. But in situations of high tension, such as those that might normally be thought to obtain in divided societies, disagreement quickly becomes disloyalty. Under such conditions, political elites have often proved extremely good at silencing internal dissent and at manipulating group narratives in ways that further their own political ambitions. The story of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia is, in part, a story of unashamedly chauvinistic political elites (including Slobodan Milosˇevic in Serbia and the revisionist nationalist historian Franjo Tudjman in Croatia) who equated leadership with ethnic self-assertion, and success with military victory. Under their rule, the elimination and expulsion of ethnic enemies became the dominant pattern of inter-group engagement from the 1990s onwards (Morrow 2005: 48). A further result was a stultifying form of ethnic essentialism that not only left little room for compromise with the enemy, but also ensured that group narratives could not be discussed or finessed from within. Deliberative democracy cannot admit any narrative that fails to connect the particular to the general, since otherwise there is no way of knowing whether narratives are themselves sources of unjustified exclusion (Dryzek 2000: 68–9; cf. Appiah 1994: 160–3). General principles restrict the scope that manipulative elites might otherwise have to silence internal dissert. Since they are general, they cannot be used to further one set of ethnic interests while at the same time inhibiting some other. In short, narratives must be capable of resonating with citizens who do not share them, or who — 138 —

Dilemmas of Exclusion share them only partly, if they are to help in creating a social context within which constructive solutions to problems of division might be built. This is not just because of the need to find common points of contact between conflicting ethnic groups. It is also because of the need to ensure sufficient space for the expression of alternative readings of a group’s narrative. Those alternative readings help ensure that narratives do not rigidify at the hands of unscrupulous elites or simply in the normal course of events. They keep alive the possibility that narratives will evolve in ways that are less confrontational, less exclusive, and hence play their part in assisting the transition from conflict to democracy. With this expanded conception of deliberative democracy in mind, let us now return to the criticisms levelled by Sanders, Young and Williams. The first objection that we considered turns on the claim that deliberative democracy is insufficiently sensitive to the distinction between external and internal forms of inclusion. More specifically, the claim is that deliberation does nothing to inhibit the tendency of dominant groups to discuss policy questions among themselves as though disadvantaged groups were not actually a party to the debate, or, worse still, as if they were simply a resource that is to be used to the advantage of the dominant culture. On one level, this is probably true. If people are prejudiced in ways that lead them to hear some arguments but not others, even an expanded conception of deliberation may not be able to alter those prejudices. But on another level, this objection overlooks at least one crucial consideration. The requirements of reciprocity and publicity are not merely aspirational. On the contrary, I agree with Joshua Cohen that their primary purpose is to provide standards that are meant to inform the choice of political institution (Cohen 1997a: 79–80). To the extent that institutional designers can create procedures that embody those requirements, the structure of political incentives will reward those who are most willing to listen seriously to the claims of others, and to weigh them fairly against their own. It should be said, of course, that although most deliberative democrats agree on this point (but see Dryzek 2005), they have been far more concerned with constructing normative arguments than with thinking through the institutional implications of those arguments (but see Uhr 1998; James 2004; Steiner et al. 2005). Nevertheless, in the absence of a compelling argument to the contrary, the impact of institutional structures on political behaviour should not be ruled out in advance. Indeed, I offer an institutional argument in support of this contention in the next chapter. What, then, of the second criticism, namely that deliberative democracy is unduly conservative in privileging general over particular interests? On one level, this criticism suggests that, by privileging speech that is rational — 139 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies and general over speech that is emotive and particular, deliberative democracy may fail to further the common good or enhance the bonds of solidarity upon which all viable democracies depend. At bottom, deliberative democracy does indeed privilege rational and general speech. But as we have seen, there are good reasons why this should be the case. Although alternative forms of communication like narrative can play an important role in an expanded conception of deliberative democracy, they may result in unjustified exclusion unless they can be shown to connect up with more general political norms and principles. Admittedly, this is not an answer to the objection that general reasoning is biased against disadvantaged groups. There are at least two answers to this objection. First, it is not true that deliberative democrats fail to allow for particular reasons. Rawls, for instance, allows that, on the ‘wide view of public reason’, people may appeal to comprehensive doctrines, but only under the proviso ‘that in due course public reasons, given by a reasonable political conception, are presented sufficient to support whatever the comprehensive doctrines are introduced to support’ (1996: li–lii). Second, the objection seems to assume that the particular claims made by disadvantaged groups are not compatible with general political principles. If this were the case, it would be hard to make sense of the legacy of, among others, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or, for that matter, Nelson Mandela. These great figures did use rhetoric and narrative to great effect; as such, their appeals were often expressed in the language of the oppressed. However, what gave them their power was their ability to point to political principles like equality and autonomy that dominant groups espoused (Dryzek 2005: 235). Thus, although Williams is correct when she argues that deliberative democrats have not identified an agreed standard of ‘reasonableness’ (2000: 133–4), there is a sense in which such standards are already present in the political culture of a democratic society – or, more precisely, in the values that make that culture democratic. Finally, a few words on the criticism that, when it comes down to it, deliberative democracy is not all that populist. The objection here was that, in so far as deliberative democracy favours forms of reasoning and discussion typical of historically dominant groups, it merely substitutes one form of democratic elitism for another. Once again, this criticism is wide of the mark. Deliberative democracy does not favour forms of reasoning and discussion typical of historically dominant groups. Rather, what it favours are general reasons. A dominant group that could not appeal to general principles would fall foul of the requirements of reciprocity and publicity and hence could not claim that its proposals should be collectively binding. They might enforce those proposals anyway, but that would not be democratic. — 140 —

Chapter 7

Civil Society and Political Institutions

Throughout the course of this book, I have stressed the importance of enabling citizens to shape their own relation to the polity. Correspondingly, I have also stressed the need to create representative institutions that are open and responsive to the full diversity of interests and opinions in society. This is not to suggest that these ideals can be met in all instances. In divided societies, the threat of violence will often mean that ethnic claims will have to take priority over other kinds of claims, at least in the first instance. However, in so far as the received view that democracy requires citizens to share a sense of common national identity is correct, greater space must be made in the longer run for alternative forms and avenues of political expression. That space allows citizens to engage politically along non-ethnic lines, if and when they choose to do so. This is not to deny the saliency of ethnicity to political life in divided societies. On the contrary, once ethnic groups have become highly politicised, once they have demanded rights and protections as an ethnic group, nothing short of an institutional solution will meet those demands. Nevertheless, the point remains that citizens will not be able to think of themselves as sharing a common national identity unless there is some common basis upon which they can engage with one another on non-ethnic terms. Civil society provides one such basis. More specifically, the various voluntary associations that it contains enable citizens from a wide diversity of social, economic and political backgrounds to come together and deliberate about issues such as the provision of public services, gender equality, health care, education, the environment and so forth. Civil issues are different to ethnic issues in the sense that they cannot be reduced to the interests of some particular ethnic group, but instead pertain to citizens in general. Of course, as far as divided societies are concerned, it would be foolish to suggest that the associations that take part in such deliberations will always do so without advocating the interests of particular ethnic groups. What is more, ethnic groups will often contain their own discrete — 141 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies civil societies that may replicate debates conducted at the political level. Nevertheless, discussions that start within separate civil spheres often provide a platform upon which cross-cutting networks are eventually built. Those networks are crucial to the prospects for democracy in divided societies because they enable people to start to think of themselves as citizens, rather than simply as the members of particular ethnic groups. In short, they help build social unity and political solidarity. It is these kinds of voluntary, cross-cutting civil networks that we will be concerned with in this chapter. Accordingly, as we will see in the opening section, although civil associations are independent from the state, the relation between the two is complex. On the one hand, civil society plays an important role in ensuring that government is both accountable and responsive to the broadest possible swathe of public opinion. But on the other hand, the fact that some civil associations will be better placed to push their concerns onto the political agenda than some others means that government must intervene in order to ensure that weaker groups are afforded an equal opportunity to influence the formation of public policy. The question that I then take up is whether and to what extent consociational institutions are both responsive and accountable to public opinion in all its diversity. More precisely, the question I take up is whether and to what extent consociational institutions can accommodate the particular demands of ethnic groups while at the same time allowing sufficient space for the political articulation of interests and experiences that cut across ethnic lines. I will argue that, when assessed in terms of the requirements of reciprocity and publicity, the standard consociational model, associated with the (early) work of Arend Lijphart, is found wanting on two grounds. First, it does not allow sufficient space for the kinds of alternative avenues of political expression through which cross-cutting interests and experiences can be expressed. Second, it does not provide sufficient space for opposition parties to check the behaviour of those in government and hence does not require them to justify their decisions on terms that everyone in society can accept. This constricts the scope for compromise and hence for the creation of the kinds of shareable goods that form the basis of a common national identity. The chapter then argues that a more sophisticated consociationalism can go some way towards responding to these objections. To this end, it focuses on Brendan O’Leary’s distinction between complete, concurrent and weak consociations, and shows how this distinction can enhance the quality of democracy. Nevertheless, the chapter concludes that O’Leary’s prescriptions can fully succeed in meeting the requirements of reciprocity and publicity only if those who design consociations are also willing to soften — 142 —

Civil Society and Political Institutions their emphasis on elite bargaining so as to make greater room for the interplay between civil society and elected representatives. Civil society In the conflict studies literature, there is a tendency to overstate the role that governing elites play in peace processes. In saying this, I do not mean to deny that elites have a profound impact in determining whether a divided society can make a successful transition from conflict to democracy. They most certainly do – not just in terms of encouraging a common commitment to democracy among citizens, but also in terms of shaping and determining the structure of government and its institutions. Yet as Larry Diamond points out, democracy is not just a system in which elites acquire the power to rule through a competitive struggle for the people’s vote, as Joseph Schumpeter defined it. It is also a political system in which government must be held accountable to the people, and in which mechanisms must exist for making it responsive to their passions, preferences and interests. (1999: 219) The various associations that make up civil society provide ordinary citizens with multiple formal and informal channels through which they can check the exercise of state power in ways that render governing elites more responsive to public opinion. These associations include churches, universities, trade unions, employers’ associations, environmental groups and the like. However, a vibrant and robust civil society does much more than enable like-minded people to build affinities and mobilise for common purposes, to coordinate their actions through discussion and to reach for new ideas and practices. It also enables them to exercise control over the conditions under which they live and act – in effect, to be self-determining – and hence to increase the quality of their democracy (Young 1999b: 149–50). At the same time, some deliberative democrats have tended to overplay the importance of civil society. John Dryzek, for example, sees in civil society not just a solution to the social choice critique of deliberative democracy, or to transnational problems like environmental degradation (2000), but also a solution to ethnic conflict (2005). Civil society is, as Dryzek rightly points out, an ideal site for the creation and consolidation of the kinds of cross-cutting networks and identities that facilitate the transition to democracy in deeply divided societies. But just as government is not the whole story, what Dryzek fails to adequately see is that civil society is not the whole story either. For one thing, civil society cannot negotiate a — 143 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies peace accord because, for the most part, it does not represent the ethnic interests that lie at the heart of an ethnic conflict. However, what civil society can do, and often has done, is pressurise political elites at critical moments in a peace process to take the decisive step towards democracy (see Lederach 1997: 52–3). For another thing, what Dryzek also overlooks is that a powerful association with many different types of resources at its disposal (money, personnel, access to the media and so forth) may have a much better chance of influencing the direction that public policy takes than a weaker association with fewer resources. Since this will sometimes mean that the most vulnerable in society may not even manage to get their concerns onto the political agenda, let alone help shape the policies that result, government must step in to ensure a rough equality of influence (Walzer 2004: 78–9). Otherwise, public policy may unjustly privilege some interests over others, which is wholly undemocratic. The relationship between government and civil society is therefore highly complex. Civil society cannot function properly without the help of government, but elites may not act in the interests of everyone in society unless they are pressed to do so by a wide diversity of civil associations (Walzer 2004: 83). One useful way of exploring this complexity is by analysing Diamond’s definition of civil society, which reads as follows: ‘Civil society is the realm of organised social life that is open, voluntary, selfgenerating, at least partially self-supporting, autonomous from the state, and bound by a legal order or set of shared rules’ (1999: 221). This enormously rich definition rewards some unpacking. To begin with, Diamond claims that civil society is the realm of organised social life. Naturally, social life can take many different forms and may be more or less organised. It may also have nothing at all to do with politics. Yet for present purposes, the important point to pick up on is that if civil associations are to have any real influence on the formation of public policy, they must be effectively organised. There are at least four obvious reasons that explain why this is so. Civil associations must be effectively organised so that their members can successfully (1) exchange information and evaluate alternative perspectives, (2) formulate coherent policy recommendations that can be submitted to government for consideration, (3) mobilise sufficient numbers to bring about political change and (4) generate the levels of capital that are often necessary to successfully lobby government. More generally, they must be effectively organised so that they might empower members with a real sense that their interests have been adequately expressed and taken up by government, and hence encourage further participation in civic life (Young 1999b: 149). Of course, this still leaves us wondering what might distinguish civil — 144 —

Civil Society and Political Institutions associations from other forms of organised social life such as the family. According to Diamond, what marks civil associations out as distinctive is their open and voluntary character. The idea here is quintessentially liberal – since the self is always prior to the ends that are chosen by it, individuals are free to move between associations, as and when they please. This freedom leads to the creation of an ever larger number of associations, which in turn advances the cause of social justice – because the more that individuals are free to move, and the more associations there are for them to move to, the more difficult it is to maintain either subjection or hierarchy (Walzer 2004: 75). The difficulty with this liberal ideal, however, is that real world civil societies continue to contain groups and organisations that cannot be, or whose members may not wish to be, described as ‘voluntary’. Some people cannot think about their religion in such terms, yet religious groups are normally included in liberal definitions of civil society; and while it is true that men can, and often do, join women’s groups, the interests that those groups seek to promote cannot always be thought about as freely chosen. To think that they might be understood along such lines would be to fail to recognise the role that faith plays in the life of many religious believers, or the kinds of experiences that many women’s groups seek to express (cf. Warren 2001: 96–103). There are, none the less, two possible ways in which we might reframe the idea of voluntariness so that it remains a key defining feature of civil society. First, although civil associations aim to influence the formation of public policy, they do not seek to win control over, or position within, the state (Schmitter 1997: 240). Admittedly, the line between influence and control can be hard to draw. But at least as far as divided societies are concerned, one way in which we might seek to draw that line is by asking whether the association in question sees the state as legitimate, or whether its goal is to collapse the state. Second, civil associations do not seek to represent the complete set of interests of their members or of society at large. In other words, civil associations are not hegemonic, but instead seek to represent particular interests at particular times. Significantly, as Diamond himself points out, this ‘partiality is crucial to generating one of the important consequences of a truly civil society: the profusion of different organisations and, for individuals, multiple organisational ties that cut across and complicate existing cleavages and generate moderating crosspressures on individual preferences, attitudes and beliefs’ (1999: 223). It is possible to argue, therefore, that as long as civil associations do not seek to win control over the state or to become hegemonic, voluntariness can be retained as a defining feature of civil society. At the same time, the relation between state and society remains highly complex. Civil — 145 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies associations must be at least partially self-supporting because otherwise they may become overly dependent on state support which, in turn, may compromise their independence. When this happens, civil associations lose the freedom to advance their own interests in their own way. Perhaps more worryingly still, they lose the ability to stand as a critical check on the behaviour of political elites. This may not be such a problem for powerful associations that have significant resources of their own. But for weaker groups, who often speak for the most vulnerable members of society, the threat to freedom is very real. One way in which this worry might be avoided is by moving from direct to indirect support for civil associations. For instance, rather than provide direct financial aid, governments might instead aim to support weaker associations by establishing specially dedicated bodies that aim to ensure, for example, a greater say for disadvantaged groups. The Office on the Status of Women in South Africa – whose ‘major objective is to influence and shape government policy in order to ensure that gender issues are integrated into the overall policies of government’ (Harris and Reilly 1998: 326) – is one well-known example. Alternatively, governments might decide to create general consultative bodies that are open to all on an equal basis, and hence to provide a means of participation in the formation of public policy for associations whose interests might otherwise be overlooked. In this latter vein, the Belfast Agreement provides for the establishment of a Civic Forum, whereas the Lebanese Ta’if Accord provides for the establishment of an Economic and Social Council (Woods 1999; Russell and Shehadi 2005). These dedicated bodies serve as ‘conduits’ between civil society and government. In principle, they afford weaker associations a hearing that is equal to the hearing that stronger associations can secure for themselves, while at the same time allowing weaker associations to remain autonomous from the state. This is not to suggest that each and every contribution that is channelled to government through these conduits can, or should, find its way into public policy. Some contributions will turn out to be irrelevant, while others will turn out to be unfair. Others still will turn out to be wrong. From a deliberative perspective, however, what is crucial is that the reasons why a government decides to act on some contributions while not others are made publicly available. Put another way, what is crucial is that government meets the requirements of reciprocity and publicity. Following Nancy Fraser, Habermas describes this particular way of framing the relation between civil society and the state in terms of a ‘two-track’ process in which there is a division of labour between ‘weak publics’ and ‘strong publics’ (Habermas 1996: 304–8; Fraser 1992: 132–6). — 146 —

Civil Society and Political Institutions Thus, while weak publics are responsible for identifying and interpreting social problems and for generating public opinion on matters of general concern, strong publics must filter such concerns through formal parliamentary procedures in order to arrive at binding political decisions. This division of labour not only allows Habermas to situate the doctrine of the separation of state and civil society within his discourse theory of democracy, but to do so in a manner that differs significantly from either the classical liberal or civic humanist republican conceptions of this doctrine. Since I have already made much of the contrast between these three conceptions (especially in Chapter 3), it will be worth our while to take a brief look at what is at issue here. Classical liberalism assumes that a functioning democratic public sphere requires a sharp separation of civil society and the state (see generally Lomasky 2002). While this is meant to ensure that civil society can act as an independent or autonomous critical check on the actions of elected representatives and other public officials, Fraser argues that it cannot ultimately succeed in this task. In her view, sharpening the distinction between state and society lessens the potential for responsiveness and accountability because there is no obvious means of theorising the connection between strong and weak publics. In short, what is missing from the classical liberal conception of the relation between state and civil society is deliberation. On the one hand, public opinion is not formed in the course of discussion between ordinary citizens, but is conceived as an aggregate of privately expressed, antecedently given preferences and beliefs. On the other hand, representatives do not seek to engage reciprocally with one another, but instead try to arrive at bargains that satisfy as many private preferences as possible (Fraser 1997: 97–8, n 37). Although (as I have stressed on a number of occasions) bargaining certainly has its place in democratic politics, it does little to encourage citizens or representatives to think of themselves as engaged in a shared political enterprise, or to create the kinds of shareable goods that give expression to their standing as political equals. This might not be such a problem in societies where the state is not in question. But in divided societies, where the legitimacy of the territorial unit is typically subject to intense dispute, it clearly is a problem, and a serious one at that. By contrast, republicanism does reserve a central place for public deliberation about the common good. However, since political engagement is ‘framed from the standpoint of a single, all-encompassing ‘‘we’’ ’, it rules ethnicity out of order (Fraser 1996: 87). In so doing, it not only fails to strike an acceptable balance between the need to recognise competing ethnic groups and the need to build common national identity, but also collapses the — 147 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies distinction between civil society and state (see Habermas 1998b: 247). As a result, republicanism not only risks turning the state into an arena of conflict in which different ethnic groups seek to stamp their own identity on its institutions, but also provides little in the way of protection for vulnerable ethnic groups from arbitrary state interference. Although deliberative democracy shares with republicanism an emphasis on public reasoning and discussion, it joins with liberalism in seeking to maintain the distinction between civil society and state. Unlike liberalism, however, it recognises the need to provide mechanisms and procedures that allow the weaker members of society to have their say in the creation of shareable goods. In arguing for those mechanisms, deliberative democracy seeks to contribute towards the facilitation and formation of overlapping memberships, and hence towards the balancing of ethnic and civic identities. This is not to deny or ignore the fact that civil society will often contain illiberal and intolerant associations whose members refuse to be bound by a legal order or set of shared rules. Associations of this sort have no place within a modern democratic order. But what, we might wonder, does deliberative democracy have to say about associations that play by the rules when dealing with other groups or with the state, but that are nevertheless internally hierarchic? It is tempting to think that all civil associations should be internally governed by deliberative norms. However, this thought overlooks the fact that the members of some associations may willingly accept subordinate roles (Walzer 2004: 85). Presumably, this is true of some religious believers, many of whom are perfectly reasonable people. What is more, the thought also overlooks the fact that any effort to democratise those groups would, in all likelihood, be viewed as patronising and insulting. In divided societies, it may even be interpreted as a breach of segmental autonomy, since religious identity and ethnic identity will often coincide. Under these sorts of conditions, any attempt to influence how a religious group runs its own internal affairs might well be taken as a threat to the vital interests of the ethnic group. Thus, if respect for difference is part of what we mean by democracy, then deliberative norms cannot be forced upon civil associations. Those norms need only be required at the level of the state, since, at that level, it really does matter whether political institutions are constructed in ways that meet the requirements of reciprocity and publicity. Otherwise, citizens have no real way of knowing whether their views were given a fair hearing, or whether they were simply overruled by the sheer weight of numbers (cf. Gutmann and Thompson 2004: 31–6). Still, we might continue to wonder whether the claim that deliberative norms need only be required at the level of the state is really all that — 148 —

Civil Society and Political Institutions satisfactory. The members of some associations may resist attempts to meddle with their internal affairs – indeed, they may be perfectly happy being subordinated. And yet, or so the objection might be thought to go, the trouble is that a great many other citizens may be no way near so acquiescent. Women, in particular, have fought long and hard (indeed, they are still fighting) against discriminatory patterns of associational hierarchy and subordination. They want and need to belong to groups; but they also want and need membership that is equal. Viewed in this way, a deliberative view that holds that norms like reciprocity and publicity need only apply at the state level seems extremely shortsighted. What is more, it may, despite pretensions to the contrary, preclude some citizens from shaping their own relation to the polity. This objection overlooks the fact that civil associations do not represent the complete set of interests of their members, which is why citizens will often belong to more than one group or organisation. Multiple memberships may create tensions for those who hold them. However, the state must leave individual citizens free to make the personal decisions for themselves that they cannot yield to others without compromising their personal autonomy. This, I have argued, is what a commitment to democracy (partly) demands. Thus, a woman who actively participates both in her local Catholic church and in her local pro-choice group may or may not be able to reconcile the tensions that arise between these two membership. It makes little sense, however, to think that the state should make her mind up for her. Rather, what is crucial in such cases is that individual citizens have the right to leave whichever association they find uncongenial. Where associations seek to the restrict the personal autonomy of their individual members, then the state must intervene in order to uphold the democratic value of personal autonomy (cf. Kymlicka 1995: 35–44; Walzer 2004: 84–7; Warren 2001: 103–9). But it must also intervene to protect and preserve a space for associational life. Otherwise, what may follow is a constriction of those cross-cutting interests and identities upon which a common national identity can be fostered and sustained. Consociational democracy revisited A vibrant and robust civil society can support the transition to democracy in two main ways. First, strong and autonomous civil associations provide a critical check on the behaviour of political elites. This not only makes elites more responsive to the full diversity of public opinion, but also holds them more accountable for their actions. Second, a rich and pluralistic civil society ‘tends to generate a wide range of interests that may cross-cut, and so — 149 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies mitigate, the principal polarities of political conflict’ (Diamond 1999: 245). This not only encourages tolerance and a healthy respect for difference, but, in principle, also allows representatives much more room to build the sorts of composite compromises that are required to address difficult political questions. To the extent that associational pluralism promotes civic engagement of this sort, it can play a crucial role in helping to build a stronger sense of common national identity. At the same time, however, if associational pluralism is to flourish, the state must be prepared to intervene in order to ensure that weaker groups will also have their say. As I suggested above, an appropriate way in which this might be done is through the provision of ‘conduits’ through which those whose voice might normally go unheard can have a real say (or at least a genuine hearing) in the formation of public policy. Those conduits are crucially important. And yet the fact remains that all the conduits in the world will be to no avail if governments do not feel compelled to reflect seriously on the diverse contributions that are channelled through them. In the remainder of this chapter, I will consider whether consociational power-sharing institutions are as responsive and accountable to the full diversity of public opinion as they might ideally be. More precisely, I will consider whether they encourage representatives to meet the requirements of reciprocity and publicity, or whether they ought to be appropriately reformed. To this end, I will focus on institutional questions of electoralsystem design and legislative and executive formation. First, though, a number of comments are in order about the idea of segmental autonomy, since that idea has some considerable bearing on the prospects for a flourishing civil society in divided societies. Segmental autonomy Dryzek criticises the idea of segmental autonomy on the grounds that it shepherds the ‘political communications of ordinary citizens’ into ‘withinbloc channels where they can do little damage to social harmony’. In his view, however, this channelling is inimical to democracy since it ‘blocks any kind of deliberative interaction across different blocs below the elite level’. Thus, segmental autonomy ‘precludes any role that public deliberation construed as social learning might play in reconciliation in divided societies’ (Dryzek 2005: 222), and hence, we might conclude, undermines the creation of solidarities and shared interests upon which a sense of common national identity depends. At first sight we might be tempted to agree with Dryzek’s assessment. By its very nature, segmental autonomy appears to severely — 150 —

Civil Society and Political Institutions limit the scope for meaningful deliberation across ethnic lines and, by corollary, the development of interests and identities that cut across ethnic ties. On closer inspection, however, there is reason to think that this criticism may be unwarranted, at least in some cases. Comparative scholars generally agree that, for the purposes of managing ethnic conflict in divided societies, ethnic groups should be afforded a significant degree of control over their own internal affairs, especially in the areas of education and culture (see, for example, Lijphart 2005; McGarry and O’Leary 2004b; Roeder and Rothchild 2005). Yet while this normally calls for the provision of special group rights, it is, as I argued in Chapter 2, possible to ground those rights in a way that leaves a great deal of discretion to group members. The Belfast Agreement’s language provisions provide a good illustration of what is at issue here. The protection of the Irish language and of Ulster-Scots was put in place because of the demands of two particular political agendas, Irish nationalism and British unionism, and the need to create equality between them. However, the important thing about this protection is that nationalists and unionist do not have to speak these languages. The provisions make a facility available to each community as a whole. But they leave it to each individual citizen to choose whether and when to avail of the facility. In this sense, segmental autonomy need not preclude ‘social learning’. It is simply a mechanism to ensure that those who wish to celebrate their culture can do in safety. One might, of course, compare the situation in Northern Ireland with the situation in Quebec, where language rights are constructed in a way that effectively forces assimilation into the dominant Francophone culture (but see Taylor 1994). There is one further point that needs to be stressed about the relation between segmental autonomy and the development of a flourishing civil society that Dryzek also overlooks. How ordinary citizens behave at the societal level will depend to some degree on how their leaders behave at the institutional level – or, more precisely, on how political institutions require their leaders to behave. For instance, referring to the collapse of Lebanon’s consociational institutions in 1975, Lijphart writes that, in addition to repeated Palestinian, Syrian and Israeli interference in its internal political life, the specific Lebanese form of power-sharing also had severe weaknesses because it was based on primordial assumptions concerning the fixed and stable nature of the sectarian segments (Maronite Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims, etc.). This left no room for secularly-oriented groups and individuals. Moreover, the relative shares of representation for the pre-determined segments were fixed on a permanent basis. (2001: 12) — 151 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Arguably, not much has changed since 1975. Although the 1989 Ta’if Accord does attempt to create a stronger sense of common Lebanese identity, ‘the pre-determined Christian sects are still over-represented, and there is still no provision for any other groups than the pre-determined sects’ (Lijphart 2001: 12). As such, Lebanon remains built on institutions that enshrine sectarianism as a creed, in which (according to convention) the president must always be a Christian Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim. Although Dryzek claims that elections have ‘little meaning’ in a consociational democracy since ‘the same set of leaders will govern irrespective of the result’ (2005: 222), the idea that mechanisms should be put in place that rigidly institutionalise competing ethnic identities within the institutions of the state is not intrinsic to the consociational model. Indeed, as John McGarry and Brendan O’Leary point out, ‘Most modern consociationalists, in fact, would eschew these devices and prefer liberal rules that equally protect whatever groups emerge in free elections’. In other words, most modern consociationalists prefer ‘self-determination over predetermination’ (2004a: 33; the reference is to Lijphart 1995). And so the really vital issue is the following. If we accept the argument that a pluralist civil society is crucial to democracy, and should, moreover, be actively (if indirectly) promoted by the state, then the state itself must not be founded on a contradictory guiding principle. In other words, if segmental autonomy is institutionalised in a way that allows for fluidity at the level of the ordinary citizen and the choices that they make, then it makes little sense to found consociational governments on the rigid institutionalisation of competing ethnic identities – and vice versa. Again, what this demonstrates is the need to take the relationship between state and civil society extremely seriously. The one is crucial to the health and proper functioning of the other, a point that is all too often lost on (some) deliberative democrats. As we will now see, this way of framing the relation between civil society and state has crucial implications for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of consociational institutions. More specifically, I will argue that although consociationalists are basically correct when it comes to the choice of an appropriate electoral system, they need to think more seriously about why and how the requirements of reciprocity and publicity should be institutionalised at the governmental level. Electoral systems Choosing an appropriate electoral system is an onerous challenge. There are many reasons why this is the case, but perhaps none is more basic than the — 152 —

Civil Society and Political Institutions fact that no electoral system simply translates voter preferences into electoral results in a direct, unmediated fashion. On the contrary, ‘each electoral system contains a different array of biases from every other electoral system’, which ‘means that those who decide among such systems can choose, in effect, to prefer one set of biases over another’ (Horowitz 2003b: 115–16; see more generally Taagepera and Shugart 1989). Thus, before we can choose an electoral system, we need to be explicit about the goals that we want that system to achieve and why it is we want to achieve them. Advocates of the consociational approach argue that the primary goal in choosing an electoral system for a divided society should be to return a legislature that is broadly representative of all the main ethnic segments. For this reason, they typically favour some form of proportional representation (PR) system (see, for example, Lijphart 2004: 100–1; McGarry and O’Leary 2004a: 13–14). From a deliberative democratic perspective, broad representation is also highly desirable. Since the sheer size of most modern democratic societies means that mass deliberation is not a viable option, it is crucial that as many citizens as possible can count upon finding representatives who share their interests (Mill 1991 [1861]: 282). Otherwise, neither the value of personal autonomy nor the requirement of publicity can be met at the governmental level. And yet as far as divided societies are concerned, the trouble is that PR has uncertain implications for the representation of interests that are not voiced along ethnic lines. As the label suggests, PR systems tend to reduce disproportionate vote-toseat ratios. However, a further key attraction of such systems is their ability to facilitate minority representation: as long as the threshold for election is not set too high and district magnitude is not set too low, political parties with even a few per cent electoral support should gain some seats in the legislature. Knowing this, there is a strong incentive for new political parties or independent candidates to stand for election, which broadens the political spectrum and hence increases electoral choice (Cox 1990: 921–2; Reilly 2001: 20–2). Some of those parties and candidates may aim to represent civil interests. They may, for example, base their election campaign on social and economic policies that transcend ethnic divisions, such as reform of the health or tax system. However, a PR system might just as easily encourage ethnic parties that seek to represent the more extreme ends of the political spectrum. To the extent that such parties do emerge under PR systems, moderates may themselves have to take up a more extreme position in order to avoid being undercut at the polls (Barry 1975a: 505). This inhibits moderates from treating political issues as civil issues and reduces the scope for reciprocity more generally. Of course, those who aim — 153 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies to represent civil interests may still get elected – again, the low thresholds with which PR systems normally operate may see to that. The worry is, however, that the main ethnic parties might be unable or unwilling to listen to them once they are returned to power. To the extent that this occurs, consociational institutions will fail to meet the requirement of reciprocity. Against this kind of background, Donald Horowitz has sought to defend an alternative approach to power sharing. That alternative is based on the idea that if we wish to promote moderation and compromise in divided societies, then the challenge is to devise an electoral system that makes an ethnic party’s chances at the polls depend, at least in part, on the support of voters other than those they principally represent. Of course, the members of one ethnic group will not give their vote to parties from another ethnic group just because they happen to prefer the policies that are on offer. No matter how attractive those policies might be, ethnic groups will typically vote along ethnic lines. However, this need not hold true under electoral systems in which voters have more than one vote. Under list PR or first-past-the-post, a voter gets a single vote for a single list or a single candidate. But under preferential systems like the single transferable vote (STV) or the alternative vote (AV), voters are allowed to rank the candidates on the ballot in order of their preferences (Horowitz 199 1: 163–203; Reilly 2001: 18–19, 27–41). Thus, while it is reasonable to assume that voters will continue to give their first preference to a party representing their own ethnic group, they may be willing to transfer lower-order preferences to moderate candidates from an opposing ethnic group (but see McGarry and O’Leary 2004a: 30). This means that lower-order preferences can become extremely valuable to ethnic parties willing to compromise across group lines – provided, that is, that the chances of winning seats on the basis of vote transfers from moderates outside of their own group will sufficiently outweigh the chances of losing votes to extremists within their own group for appearing ‘soft’ (Rose 1976: 78; Horowitz 1991: 174, 177). The incentives to pool votes must therefore be as strong as possible, which is why Horowitz argues that AV is generally preferable to STV. Like all PR systems, STV tends to produce results that are broadly representative. However, since broad representation requires a relatively low threshold, the incentive to pool votes under this particular system may not be terribly strong. In contrast, Horowitz argues that AV provides much more rigorous incentives, since it is based on a majority threshold for election, operating in single-member constituencies (cf. Reilly 2001: 151–4). In highly mixed constituencies, a threshold of this sort may effectively mean that electoral results will turn heavily on vote transfers, since many candidates may be unable to secure anything like a majority on their own. In turn, this will tend to encourage reciprocity, since — 154 —

Civil Society and Political Institutions it may give some advantage to those willing to compromise across group lines (Horowitz 1991: 189). At first sight, Horowitz’s incentives-based approach may seem very attractive in terms of encouraging reciprocity. In favouring those who are most willing to compromise across group lines, it encourages ethnic parties to take the broader view. In the ideal case, it will encourage them to think not just in terms of ethnic interests, but also in terms of civil interests. However, on closer inspection, there are at least two serious worries attaching to this approach. First, AV may entice extremists in from the margins and engage them in a competition for the moderate middle. What Horowitz never explains, however, is why extremists should be willing to agree to such a system in the first place. There is plenty of empirical evidence showing that extremists operate on the assumption that the best way to win votes is to prey upon the fears and suspicions of the members of their own ethnic group – from which it is reasonable to conclude that ‘AV would never be agreed to by hardline parties entering a constitutional settlement if they believed it would be likely to undermine their electoral support’ (McGarry and O’Leary 2004a: 30). Moreover, if such a system were imposed upon them, the consequences for democracy could be disastrous. Second, even in the unlikely event that extremists did move in from the margins and engage in a competition for the moderate middle, AV would still not provide sufficient space for candidates who appeal principally, or even exclusively, to civil interests. In a divided society, ethnic parties can be expected to win the lion’s share of the vote. Consequently, since AV is based on a majority threshold operating in a single-member constituency, a candidate seeking to represent some particular ethnic group will almost always win the day (McGarry and O’Leary 2004a: 30). Of course, it may be responded that moderate ethnic parties will, almost by definition, be open to civil interests as well as ethnic interests. However, this response overlooks something very important. When moderate elites admonish their members to transfer lower-order preferences to moderate candidates from another ethnic group, they normally do so for strategic reasons – in transferring those votes, the aim is not to advance the common good, but to advance the interests of their own ethnic group. As such, civil interests, which are the only interests that can bind citizens together in a common national identity, remain unaddressed. Legislatures and governing coalitions Thus, the problem with a strongly preferential system like AV is that it does not provide a sufficiently firm foundation for citizens to engage with one — 155 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies another along civic lines. By contrast, PR does at least hold out the possibility that those who aim to represent civil interests will be returned to power, and is for this crucially important reason preferable to AV. However, as I indicated above, what is not so clear is what happens once those representatives have been elected. PR is just as likely to return moderates as extremists. Since moderates must always be aware of being undercut by extremists challengers from within their own ethnic group, they, too, can be led to take up a more extreme position. This can make it impossible for them to engage politically in a spirit of reciprocity. Admittedly, consociation does not preclude reciprocity. However, much will depend on the actual shape that consociations take. In order to see what is at issue here, let us begin by considering what is arguably the starting point for all objections against the consociational approach. According to Brendan O’Leary, the ‘biggest stick which consociationalists are beaten is the suggestion that they are not democrats’ because their preferred model ‘excludes opposition’ (2005b: 6). This objection stems from the basic consociational assumption that democracy will not succeed in a divided society unless all the elites from all the significant ethnic groups or segments in society are free to participate directly in a grand governing coalition. However, if all the elites are in government, then it follows that there is no one left to check their actions. Moreover, since inclusion is guaranteed, there is no need for elites to feel any sense of collective responsibility for the decisions that they take (Wilson and Wilford 2003: 8–10). From a deliberative perspective, the worry, therefore, is that a consociation may fail to meet the requirement of reciprocity (lack of collective responsibility) and the requirement of publicity (lack of a democratic opposition). Lijphart’s response to this kind of objection has been to argue that it is ‘narrowly based on one conception of democracy, the majoritarian conception, which does not exhaust the range of democratic possibilities’ (2002: 41). As a statement of fact, this response cannot be gainsaid. There are many different forms of democratic government. What is more, a model of democratic government that works well in one context may fare extremely poorly in some other, from which it follows that not much can be said in the abstract about how a democratic system will perform in practice. And yet this response misses something of great importance. While empirical considerations are clearly crucial to our thinking about democracy in divided societies, so, too, are normative considerations. (This, of course, was part of the central argument of Chapter 1 of this book.) Grand coalitions can work. Switzerland is an obvious contemporary example (but see Barry 1975a: 481–90; Wilson and Wilford 2003: 6). — 156 —

Civil Society and Political Institutions Nevertheless, democratic governments should be assessed not only in terms of empirical considerations like stability or efficiency, but also in terms of larger normative purposes and ideals. The deliberative ideal that I advocate holds that citizens have the right to challenge the decisions that are taken in their name. To deny them this right is to deny them their standing as political equals. The only way to preserve that right from abuse, however, is by ensuring that the actions of governing elites are open and accountable to public scrutiny. But since the public at large cannot normally participate directly in the affairs of government, they must instead rely on a strong and conscientious opposition to protect them from abuses of political power. Advocates of the consociational approach can respond that there is nothing to stop elites from rendering themselves mutually accountable, or, indeed, from building a requirement of reciprocity into the institutional structures and procedures of the governing executive (see McGarry and O’Leary 2005b). This would satisfy one of the values upon which democracy depends, namely the value of intrinsic equality. However, the fact remains that in the absence of a strong opposition, the requirement of publicity and the underlying value of personal autonomy is not satisfied. As a result, citizens cannot know with any degree of certainty whether the decisions that result are simply the product of a pragmatic bargain between elites, or whether those elites have genuinely tried to take the broadest possible range of interests – civil and ethnic – into account. In short, they have no way of knowing whether those who make decisions are representing their people or the people. As a result, the electorate may have little choice but to continue voting along ethnic lines. By contrast, a strong opposition can render elites accountable to public opinion in all its diversity. In fact, only a strong opposition can provide this kind of public guarantee. Moreover, to the extent that public scrutiny will inhibit appeals to naked self-interest (Elster 1998b), a strong opposition can also encourage reciprocal appeals to general political principles. As I argued in Chapter 4, those appeals are a crucial way in which representatives can show respect not just for one another, but also for all of those who will be bound by the decisions they enact. Of course, conditions in some divided societies may be such that this ideal cannot be met in the short term. In all likelihood, extremists will continue to seek to drum up support by playing on the fears and prejudices of their supporters, unless appropriate institutional constraints can be placed on such behaviour. I will return to this issue in just a moment. First, though, there is a more general issue that needs to be addressed concerning government-versus-opposition politics. There is, when it comes down to it, no denying Lijphart’s point that, although the consociational model may have come in for a great deal of — 157 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies criticism, very few critics have presented serious alternatives to it (2004: 97–8). Horowitz’s incentives-based approach is one notable exception. However, besides the worries that I have already raised, the fact remains that there is simply insufficient empirical evidence to test or support the claims that Horowitz makes. Australia, for example, is the only established democracy to use AV, whereas its ‘sole, and only partial, practical application to legislative elections in an ethnically divided society was the short-lived and ill-fated Fijian constitutional system, which tried to combine the alternative vote with power sharing; it was adopted in 1999 and collapsed in 2000’ (Lijphart 2004: 98; but see Reilly 2001). Consequently, whatever we might think about consociational democracy (its attractions and its shortcomings), we seem to be stuck with it. But where does that leave deliberative democrats? When all is said and done, does deliberative democracy simply offer little in the way of practical guidance? Does it simply hold out an impractical philosophical ideal? I think not. O’Leary has recently taken up the challenge of showing that the consociational approach need not preclude opposition and hence cannot sensibly be accused of being undemocratic on such grounds (O’Leary 2005b). Central to his argument is a distinction between complete, concurrent and weak consociational executives. In a complete consociational executive, elites from all the main segments in society are included, which clearly corresponds to Lijphart’s notion of a grand governing coalition. However, O’Leary argues that the word ‘grand’ can be misleading since what really matters from a consociational perspective is not that executives are maximally inclusive, but that enough elites are included so that there can be ‘meaningful, cross-community, joint decision making’ (O’Leary 2005b: 12). In his view, moreover, this requirement can be satisfied by a concurrent consociational executive (in which ‘each significant ethnic segment has representation in the executive and that executive has at least majority support in each significant segment’) or even by a weak consociational executive (in which ‘each significant segment has competitively elected political leaders in the executive, but, in at least one segment, the relevant leadership has only a plurality (rather than a majority) support among voters’) (O’Leary 2005b: 12). Thus, once we come to see that what consociations really require is ‘meaningful cross-community executive power sharing in which each significant segment is represented in the government with at least plurality levels of support within its segments’, then we can also see that consociationalism need not preclude opposition (O’Leary 2005b: 13). However, since there would be little point in allowing for opposition parties unless they were free to challenge government decisions, it follows that — 158 —

Civil Society and Political Institutions consociationalists must soften their emphasis on elite bargaining and make greater room for reciprocity and publicity. Naturally, consociationalists may want to object. In particular, they may point to the realities of political life in divided societies and argue that, if democracy is to succeed, ethnic elites must be given a free hand to make the necessary bargains upon which peace and democracy depend. But what they cannot do is have their cake and eat it. They cannot claim that their model allows for opposition, and then deny that opposition a constructive role in building a better democracy for everyone in society. Of course, this still leaves us with the problem of extremism. As I have characterised them, opposition parties can compel governing ethnic elites to publicly justify their decisions on terms that everyone can accept. As such, they can have an important role to play in terms of ensuring that government is both responsive and accountable to public opinion in all its diversity; more specifically, they can help ensure that government takes seriously the full range of contributions that are channelled to it from civil society, and not just those that are channelled to it by conflicting ethnic groups. However, the opposition may just as easily contain extremist parties that are solely concerned with playing the ethnic card as a means of advancing their own interests. In some instances, they may even be bent on destroying the democratic process from within. If extremists really do intend to destroy the democratic process, there may be little that anyone can do to change their minds. Certainly, deliberative democracy is impotent in the face of such intentions. But so, too, is consociational democracy, or any other model of democracy for that matter. However, extremists do not always seek to destroy the democratic process. Rather, as we have already seen, their aim in preying upon the fears and insecurities of their own ethnic group is often that of increasing their own electoral support in the hope of gaining executive power for themselves. Yet in so doing, they may well end up making the democratic process unworkable, since extremists are unlikely to be able to govern successfully together. This problem is especially acute, for example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where ethno-nationalist parties are nominally in government together but, in practice, fail to take responsibility for key decisions, which are instead left to the High Representative of the international community (ICG 2003; Zahar 2005). From a deliberative perspective, therefore, the challenge it to devise multiple means of encouraging extremists to advance their claims in a more conciliatory or mutually acceptable fashion – where conciliation is directed not just at the representatives of opposing ethnic groups, but also at those who represent cross-cutting, civil interests. One way in which this might be — 159 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies achieved is to make government-formation depend on the support of the legislature as a whole – akin to the process by which the Lebanese Council of Ministers is ratified (Russell and Shehadi 2005: 140–2). In order to secure that support, candidates would have to convince those with whom they are going to share power (their fellow cabinet ministers) as well as those from whom they are seeking ratification (their fellow representatives) that they are willing and able to represent the legislature as a whole. In other words, they need to explain themselves not just to the members of their own ethnic group, not just to other ethnic groups, but to the legislature as a whole. Their self-portrayals may be disingenuous. But, as we saw in Chapter 4, politicians who engage in this sort of behaviour may eventually be held to account (Elster 1998b). Similarly, although veto powers are a crucial way of assuring ethnic groups that important decisions will not be made without their consent, they can often invite political immobilism or institutional paralysis (Horowitz 1991: 154–60; Sisk 1996: 40–3). Again, much will depend on how they are institutionalised. If vetoes are afforded to ethnic groups simply by virtue of being an ethnic group, they may foster a negative form of political engagement in which the guarantees that they provide are viewed not as a constructive element in the transition to democracy, but as a stick with which to beat the other side. In some instances, they may even be used by extremists to beat moderate rivals from within their own ethnic group (Horowitz 2002b; Evans and Tonge 2003). One way around this problem is to provide for super-majority voting on issues that touch on the vital interests of all sides. The precise number of votes required would depend on the context. But it is possible to design a voting a procedure that provides adequate protections for ethnic groups while also giving non-ethnic parties some chance to influence the vote (but see McGarry and O’Leary 2004b: 221–2). These are but two proposals for thinking about how consociational institutions might be amended so as to allow for greater space for the expression and representation of civil interests. In a divided society, ethnic interests will inevitably remain primary in the short to mid term. However, if a stronger sense of common national allegiance is the longer-term goal, then the argument that I have presented here suggests that much more thought must be given to how consociational institutions should be amended so that they can play a more constructive role in achieving that goal. Much of this task will fall to comparative scholars. They, after all, are the ones with the practical experience. But as I have stressed throughout, practical questions inevitably implicate normative questions as well. If a political system is to succeed, it must match the society in which it is — 160 —

Civil Society and Political Institutions embedded. It must, however, do more than match the prevailing conditions. It must also hold up standards and ideals against which the progress of that society can be measured. I have argued that the deliberative democratic requirements of reciprocity and publicity provide two such standards. Concluding remarks Divided societies face tremendous difficulties in making the transition from conflict to democracy. Peace processes can run into severe difficulties. For instance, in recent years, the Cypriot and Sri Lankan peace processes have stagnated, whereas the Bosnian and Sudanese processes may well have collapsed altogether were it not for the continuing intervention of the international community. Nevertheless, comparative scholars generally agree that if democracy is to have any real chance of succeeding in divided societies, then institutional rights and protections must be afforded to conflicting ethnic groups. The importance of such provisions cannot be gainsaid. For one thing, they can reduce insecurities and tensions, and hence can lessen the difficulties that ethnic groups face in sharing power. But for another, although provisions of this sort are guaranteed by the state, they are afforded by ethnic groups to one another. In this sense, they constitute a fundamental act of mutual recognition – one that signals a crucial turning point in any peace process. The argument that I have presented in this book has sought to show that deliberative democracy has a crucial, normative contribution to make with respect to the larger purposes and goals towards which a divided society might aspire. That contribution also recognises the need to accommodate the demands of conflicting ethnic groups. But it does much more than this. It also argues for the need to build a stronger sense of common national identity in which everyone can share as equal citizens. Admittedly, deliberative democracy is idealistic. Yet from the outset, I have stressed the importance of striking a balance between a concern for normative standards and empirical constraints. More specifically, I have argued that although we should not be willing to compromise the normative for the empirical, empirical considerations are none the less relevant to normative thought. In the absence of clearly defined normative standards, a peace process will lack direction and public policy will be unfocused. This is an extremely serious concern, since the absence of direction may exacerbate the sense of fear and apprehension that citizens feel about the future. At the same time, however, the direction that normative theorists offer must be institutionally feasible. If deliberative democrats are to have anything — 161 —

Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies meaningful to say about the resolution of conflict in divided societies, they must engage with the debate that already exists in the comparative literature. It is true, of course, that deliberative democrats have only recently begun to take up the particular challenges posed by divided societies, and certainly much more work remains to be done. This work is rendered all the more urgent in the light of the fact that liberal and republican models of democracy have been found so badly wanting. As I have argued, whereas liberalism asks too much of the state by calling for the creation of neutral institutions that cannot be delivered, republicanism asks too much of its citizens by requiring them to relegate their ethnicity to the private sphere. By contrast, the deliberative requirements of reciprocity and publicity provide standards that can inform not just our thinking about how to manage conflict (the primary concern of comparative scholars), but also our thinking about how to resolve conflict on something like a permanent basis. More specifically, deliberative democracy encourages us to look at ethnic conflict through a new lens, one that is concerned with enabling citizens to shape their own relation to the polity. Citizens should be free to engage politically with one another as members of particular ethnic groups or as citizens in their own right. That freedom might not be achievable in the short run, since the need to redress the patterns of neglect and discrimination that give rise to conflict will often have to take priority. Otherwise, the threat of violence may continue to destabilise the democratic process. In the longer run, however, it is crucial that those charged with making public policy create greater space for different forms of political expression and engagement. That space enables citizens to strike a balance between their particular ethnic identities and their shared civic allegiance to the state. Ethnic groups must be protected. But citizens should be able to feel just as comfortable voicing their interests along non-ethnic lines, if and when they choose to do so. Where these imperatives can be satisfied, a divided society will be well on its way to creating a common national identity in which everyone can share.

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Index

accountability, 102, 119, 147 Ackerman, Bruce, 110–11, 127 Afghanistan, 2, 79 Almond, Gabriel, 15 alternative vote, 154–6, 158 Anderson, Benedict, 40 anti-discrimination measures, 62 Arendt, Hannah, 66 Armenia, 3 atomism, 67 Australia, 87–8, 158 Austria, 15, 17 bargaining, 12, 81–4, 147, 159 Barry, Brian, 60, 79, 82, 101–2 Belgium, 15, 17, 122 Bellamy, Richard, 89–94 Bentham, Jeremy, 103–4 Berlin, Isaiah, 71 Bohman, James, 130 Bok, Sissela, 116 Bosnia and Herzegovina, 17, 6, 44, 84, 106, 119, 159, 161 Dayton Accords, 119 Brennan, William J., 107 Burma, 121 Burundi, 76 Cambodia, 3 Canada, 34, 115, 128 Center for Deliberative Democracy, 88 Center for International Development and Conflict Management, 3 Chechnya, 108

citizenship, 61–2, 65, 75, 110–11, 142; see also liberalism; republicanism civil society, 11, 74–5, 141–61 associational hierarchy, 148–9 segmental autonomy, 150–2 two-track process, 146 voluntary associations, 141 weak and strong publics, 146–7 see also consociational democracy; liberalism; political elites; republicanism Cohen, Joshua, 4, 50, 127, 139 Collins, Michael, 112 Columbia, 134 combat, 79–81 common good, 70, 76, 103, 109–13, 115 compromise, 9, 11, 89–94, 118, 120, 134 Connor, Walker, 38 conservatism, 116 consociational democracy, 7, 8, 11, 14, 15–20, 39, 82–4, 116, 142–3, 149–61 bargaining, 83–4, 143, 159 complete, concurrent, weak, 11, 142, 158–9 publicity, 150–61 reciprocity, 150–61 see also ethnic elites; parliamentary opposition constitutional patriotism, 56 culture, 134–5 Cyprus, 17, 84, 161 Czechoslovakia, 2, 35 Dahl, Robert, 8, 32, 43–6, 123–4

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Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies democracy, 21, 22, 32, 33, 40, 42–48, 55, 58, 74, 105, 117 decision-making, 14, 71, 112, 122–4 defined, 43 institutional choice, 22, 142–3 procedural/substantive distinction, 48 see also intrinsic equality; personal autonomy democratic legitimacy, 106–8 democratic transitions, 41–2, 57, 70, 73, 75, 103, 106, 118, 139, 143; see also civil society, 149–50 democratic values, 8, 20, 21–4, 26–29, 30, 42–8, 117 deliberation day, 111 deliberative democracy, 1–2, 21, 74–6, 93–4, 120 decision-making, 5, 6, 7, 77–88, 88–94, 130 defined, 7, 48–53 institutional choice, 4, 7, 36, 45–8, 80, 114, 161–2 procedural 8, 48–50, 75–6, 88–9, 106 substantive 8, 48–50, 75 see also political exclusion; publicity; reciprocity; secrecy deliberative polling, 86–8 Diamond, Larry, 143–9 distributive justice, 41 division see ethnicity and political conflict Dryzek, John, 130, 143–4, 150–2 Dunn, John, 23 Dworkin, Ronald, 21, 22, 41 Elster, Jon, 10, 106 civilising force of hypocrisy, 10, 111–13 equality, 33, 43, 51, 53, 74, 78, 92–3, 107, 117 , 147; see also intrinsic equality; personal autonomy Estonia, 40, 58, 121 ethnicity, 8, 32, 37, 38 constructed, 8, 32, 40–1, 47, 64 institutional recognition, 9, 44, 46–8 primordial, 8, 32, 38–9, 40–1, 44–5, 47, 64

see also ethnic conflict; political exclusion; national identity ethnic conflict 8, 37, 41–2; see also narrative, 133–9 ethnic elites, 15, 19, 83, 101–2, 110, 115, 143, 156–9; see also political elites extremists, 47, 118, 119, 159–60 Fiji, 158 Finland, 37 first-past-the-post, 127, 154 Fishkin, James, 86–8, 110–11, 127 France, 15, 37, 38, 74 Fraser, Nancy, 146–7 freedom of association, 63–5 Freeman, Samuel, 30 Gandhi, Mahatma, 112, 140 Gauthier, David, 21 Geertz, Clifford, 38 Gellner, Ernest, 40 Georgia, 38 Germany, 15 Goodin, Robert, 13, 18–20, 113–14 group rights, 22, 44, 64–5, 71, 73–4 Gutmann, Amy, 49, 104, 117, 127 Guyana, 58 Habermas, Ju¨rgen, 50, 56, 59–60, 66, 75, 86, 113, 127, 146–7 constitutional reform, 107–8 process model of deliberation, 90 Haiti, 3 Heidelberg Institute on International Conflict Research, 3 holism, 68 Horowitz, Donald, 7, 154–5, 158 Horton, John, 95–6 India, 35 infinite regress, problem of, 107–8 internal conformity, 11, 138 internal restrictions, 110

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Index intrinsic equality, 8, 43–5, 48–9, 51–2, 74, 98, 105, 117, 122 as ascribed to groups, 44 Iran, 3 Iraq, 38, 76, 79, 108 Ireland, 35, 62 Israel/Palestine, 2, 58, 78, 121, 133, 135 Italy, 15 Jones, Peter, 44, 73 Kant, Immanuel, 52, 104–5 Kashmir, 38, 84 Kenya, 135 King, Martin Luther, 140 Kosovo, 79 Kymlicka, Will, 110 Larmore, Charles, 70 Lebanon, 3, 6, 17, 34, 106, 146, 151–2 Council of Ministers, 160 Economic and Social Council, 146 Ta’if Accord, 146, 152 liberalism, 9, 54, 60–65, 89, 93, 147–8, 162 Liberia, 106 Lijphart, Arend, 7, 8, 14, 15–20, 39, 143, 158 Locke, John, 60 Luban, David, 105, 117 Luskin, Robert, 87 Macedonia, 17, 58, 119, 121 Ohrid Agreement, 119 Machiavelli, Niccolo`, 66 McGarry, John, 61, 65, 152 Madison, James, 117–18 Malaysia, 17, 58 Mandela, Nelson, 140 Marsilius of Padua, 66 Mason, Andrew, 23–4 Mexico, 134 Michelman, Frank 106–7 Mill, John Stuart, 8, 33–7, 54, 63, 100, 109–11, 113, 124 Miller, David, 100, 130

Milosˇevic, Slobodan, 138 moderates, 47, 118 Montesquieu, Charles Louis de Secondat, 66 mutually hurting stalemate, 42 narrative, 10–11, 121, 133–9 causes, reflectors and exacerbaters, 134 national identity, 8–9, 54–76 civic, 9 , 32, 40, 54–59, 76, 148 common, 8–9, 32, 54, 141, 142, 149–50, 160, 162 ethnic, 32, 54, 76, 148 liberalism, 54, 60–5 republicianism, 54–5, 66–72 see also ethnicity; shareable goods negotiation, 52, 105–19 publicity, 109–19 structural asymmetry, 107–14 Netherlands, 15, 17 Nigeria, 6, 17 normative–empirical interface, 7–8, 13–14, 18–31, 161 Northern Ireland, 2, 17, 61–2, 64–5, 84, 106, 108, 115, 121, 129, 134–5 Belfast Agreement, 92, 118, 151 British unionism, 133, 151 Civic Forum, 146 IRA, 108 Irish nationalism, 62, 65, 121, 135, 151 liberal unionism, 61–2 loyalist paramilitaries, 108 Nozick, Robert, 21 O’Leary, Brendan, 11, 61, 65, 142, 152, 156, 158–9 Pakistan, 2 Parekh, Bhikhu, 59 parliamentary opposition, 156–60 partition, 35 peace agreements, see negotiation personal autonomy, 8, 45–48, 48–9, 52, 74, 98, 105, 117, 123, 149

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Deliberative Democracy and Divided Societies Peru, 134 Pettit, Phillip, 13, 66 Plato’s noble lie, 116 Poland, 37 political elites, 1, 98, 117, 130, 143–4, 146, 150 democratic elitism, 100, 131, 140 ethnic elites, 11, 41, 47, 156–60 see also consociational democracy; parliamentary opposition political exclusion, 120–40 deliberative democracy as cause of, 127–33, 136 ethnic conflict, 121 ethnicity, 122–40 internal exclusion, 126–8, 132 political principles appeal to, 9–10, 28–9, 77, 92–3, 121, 137–9, 140, 157 see also democratic values populism, 130 power, 80 power sharing, 44, 46–48, 53, 130, 161 women, 53 see also consociational democracy preference transformation, 89–90, 93–4 problem of scale, 52, 98–9 proportional representation, 153–6 Przeworski, Adam, 42, 86 psychocultural dramas, 134–5 public goods, 69, 88–9 publicity, requirement of, 8, 10, 52–3, 74, 99–119, 123, 132, 142–3, 146, 153, 156–7, 161–2 consociational democracy, 102, 150–61 defined, 99 democratic transition, 103 institutional choice, 139, 148–9 legitimacy, 100 self-interest, 114–15 transformative power of, 109–114 see also parliamentary opposition; secrecy

Quebec, 44, 78, 133, 151 Rabin, Yitzhak, 112 Rawls, John, 8, 14, 21, 24–31, 41, 77 justice as fairness, 25–6, 27 political liberalism, 14, 25–30 public reason, 94–7 reciprocity, requirement of 8, 9–10, 50–2, 74, 77–97, 98, 122, 132, 142–3, 146, 153–7, 161–2 compromise, 89–94 consociational democracy, 150–61 defined, 9, 79 institutional choice, 139, 148–9 mutual respect, 93–4, 97, 136 see also bargaining; combat; parliamentary opposition; voting recognition, 41, 58, 136, 161; see also narrative Reilly, Benjamin, 7 representative government, 52, 100–1, 111–19, 143; see also parliamentary opposition republicanism, 9, 54–5, 66–72, 88–9, 147– 8, 161 Riker, William, 100 ripe moments, 42 Roosevelt, Franklin D., 107 Ross, Marc Horward, 133–6, 137 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 66 sanctions, 79 Sandel, Michael, 24–5, 76 Sanders, Lyn, 10, 95, 121, 126–31, 132, 136, 139–40 Scanlon, T. M., 28 Schumpeter, Joseph, 80, 100, 130–1, 143 secrecy, 10, 115–19 argument from necessity, 116–17 in the service of deliberation, 117–19 Serbs, 40, 133 Shapiro, Ian, 80 shareable goods, 9, 77, 85, 88–94, 138, 147 Shi’ites, 133

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Index Shils, Edward, 38 Sidgwick, Henry, 116 Singapore, 121 single transferable vote, 154 Skinner, Quentin, 66 Smith, Adam, 81 Smith, Anthony, 38 social choice theory, 101, 143 South Africa, 46, 124 office on the status of women, 146 truth and reconciliation commission, 136 Soviet Union, 71 Spain, 38, 71, 115, 122 Basque County, 2, 134 Batasuna, 122 ETA, 122 spoiler tactics, 41, 84, 119 Sri Lanka, 6, 8, 161 stability, 3, 15–17, 18, 20, 25–6, 27–9, 37, 53, 65, 157 Sudan, 76, 78, 84, 161 Sunstein, Cass, 76, 96, 136 super-majorities, 160 Sweden, 37 Switzerland, 15, 17, 34, 156

convergent goods, 68 irreducibly social goods, 68–9, 88 Thompson, Dennis, 49, 104, 117, 127 Tudjman, Franjo, 138 Turkey, 71

Taylor, Charles, 41, 67–9, 76, 124–6

Zartman, William, 10, 41–2, 108–9

United Kingdom, 82 United States of America, 15, 37, 71, 76, 82, 107, 121, 135, 136 utilitarianism, 103–4, 116 Vlaams Blok, 122 Volkan, Vakim, 133 voting, 84–8, 108 cycles, 101 secret ballots, 109–11 Walzer, Michael, 127 Weale, Albert, 21 Webber, Jeremy, 58 Williams, Melissa, 10, 126–31, 136, 139–40 Young, Iris Marion, 10, 41, 95, 121, 126– 31, 132–3, 136, 139–40 Yugoslavia, 2, 35, 138

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