Why Deliberative Democracy?

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Princeton University Press, Jan 10, 2009 - Philosophy - 232 pages
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The most widely debated conception of democracy in recent years is deliberative democracy--the idea that citizens or their representatives owe each other mutually acceptable reasons for the laws they enact. Two prominent voices in the ongoing discussion are Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson. In Why Deliberative Democracy?, they move the debate forward beyond their influential book, Democracy and Disagreement.

What exactly is deliberative democracy? Why is it more defensible than its rivals? By offering clear answers to these timely questions, Gutmann and Thompson illuminate the theory and practice of justifying public policies in contemporary democracies. They not only develop their theory of deliberative democracy in new directions but also apply it to new practical problems. They discuss bioethics, health care, truth commissions, educational policy, and decisions to declare war. In "What Deliberative Democracy Means," which opens this collection of essays, they provide the most accessible exposition of deliberative democracy to date. They show how deliberative democracy should play an important role even in the debates about military intervention abroad.

Why Deliberative Democracy? contributes to our understanding of how democratic citizens and their representatives can make justifiable decisions for their society in the face of the fundamental disagreements that are inevitable in diverse societies. Gutmann and Thompson provide a balanced and fair-minded approach that will benefit anyone intent on giving reason and reciprocity a more prominent place in politics than power and special interests.


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About the author (2009)

Amy Gutmann is President of the University of Pennsylvania, where she is Professor of Politics with secondary appointments in the Department of Philosophy, the Annenberg School of Communication, and the Graduate School of Education. She is also Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor Emeritus of Princeton University where she was provost, dean of the faculty, and founding director of the University Center of Human Values. Her books include IDENTITY IN DEMOCRACY; DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION; COLOR CONSCIOUS: THE POLITICAL MORALITY OF RACE (co-authored with K. Anthony Appiah); and DEMOCRACY AND DISAGREEMENT, AND WHY DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY? (both co-authored with Dennis Thompson). She has published over 100 articles and essays in democratic theory, education, and the ethics of public life. In 2003, Gutmann was awarded Harvard University's Centennial Medal for "graduate alumni who have made exceptional contributions to society." She has been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the National Academy of Education, and a W.E.B. Dubois Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

Dennis Thompson is Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Political Philosophy and Associate Provost at Harvard University. He is the author of "The Democratic Citizen: Social Science and Democratic Theory in the Twentieth Century", "John Stuart Mill and Representative Government", and coauthor (with Amy Gutmann) of "Democracy and Disagreement".

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