This course examines the theory and practice of democracy—in particular, deliberative democracy—and engages in a dialogue with critics. The course will discuss whether a democracy, which emphasizes people thinking and talking together on the basis of good information, can be made practical in the modern age. What kinds of distortions arise when people try to discuss politics or policy together? The course draws on ideas as well as criticisms from the jury literature, from the psychology of group processes, and from the most recent normative and empirical literature on deliberative forums. Case studies from the Deliberative Polling method and other deliberation methods, its applications, defenders, and critics, both normative and empirical, will provide cases studies for discussion.
Throughout the course, students will address how public participation is currently conducted around the world. As we have all seen in successful but more likely unsuccessful attempts to consult the public, this course will examine the various ways of consulting the public and how governments, media, and the public have responded and used these results. Students will gain in depth understanding of democratic theories, and in particular with deliberative democracy, through in-class debates, taking part in a modified version of Deliberative Polling, and engaging in dialogue with prominent democracy experts.