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A Study on the Issue of Deliberative Democracy

Author: MaBen
Tutor: ZhangXiEn
School: Shandong University
Course: Branch community and the international communist movement
Keywords: Competitive Democracy Deliberative Democracy China’s Democratic Political Development
CLC: D082
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2007
Downloads: 2152
Quote: 25
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Abstract


Though democracy has been the universal value pursuit by human beings, theories on democracy takes different themes and forms in different stages of social development. From ancient Greece till now, democratic theories have experienced many changes and unfolded rich diversity. Ancient democracy means citizens with freedom and equality participate in the governance of the polis directly through the form of citizen conference or alike. This kind of participation is not a means to achieve other aims, but rather, the participation itself is the aim. Only by participating politics, the moral and talents of citizens can be improved and human nature be fully presented. At this stage, election is considered as with oligarchic nature, because some people can succeed easily with their origin or wealth, while discourses, speeches, and discussion are considered as with democratic essence. Whether to enjoy equal rights of speeches decides whether a citizen really takes part in the management of public affairs.However, with the establishment of nation-states, the representative democracy has replaced the ancient democracy featured by the direct participation in the discussion on public affairs. With the practice of representative democracy, Schumpeter and others hold that ancient democracy is nominative and idealized. This kind of democratic theory cannot convincingly analyze how democratic country operates in reality, and therefore they try to map out a democratic theory. that can explain the reality more effectively. Through the investigation into the democratic system in reality, Schumpeter raises the classical definition of "competitive democratic theory", i.e. democracy is the institutional arrangements implemented for the purpose of political decision. In this arrangement, some people acquire the power for decision by striving for people’s votes. Because Schumpeter thinks citizens are irrational "animal" that are cowardly, listless, degenerated, easily controlled by emotion and exterior forces, the role of citizen in competitive democracy is only to vote and select the leaders who can govern on their behalf, and democracy is only the by-product of competitive method of selecting leaders. Actually, liberal competitive democracy has been criticized by many since its birth. For instance, Barber believe that competitive democracy is like "a long-distance runner that has heart-trouble, strong in appearance, but worn out quickly inside" and therefore having many "malady". This kind of democracy with multi-party competitive election as the core has its inborn limitation and eventually falls into weak democracy. In the 1990’s, deliberative democracy criticized competitive democracy and has by and by become the most prominent democratic theory. Some deliberative democracy theorists reckon, "the nature of democracy is deliberation instead of vote" and "vote-centered" democratic theory should be replaced by "deliberation-centered" democratic theory gradually. If the concern of democratization from the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century was the expansion of election and fulfillment of each citizen’s right to vote, today its focus is how to enlarge the public area and let each citizen express individual opinion. "Voice instead of vote is a new way of endowing power."Deliberative democracy is, on the basis of reflecting competitive democratic theory, regives citizens the enthusiasm to participate in public affairs. It reckons that citizens’ political participation should not be restricted to periodic vote or aperiodic activities such as demonstrations. Citizens should, under the premise of open and transparent information and according to certain procedures, freely and equally carry out in full the discussion on the public policies that affect them, and through the legalization of decision by public deliberation, the quality of democratic governance is enhanced. In this way, we can see that deliberative democracy has made two improvements as compared to competitive democracy. First, competitive democracy emphasizes citizens’ entrusting power to representatives through election and letting representatives governing the country on their behalf; while deliberative democracy considers that citizens’ participation should not be restricted to election but direct public governance. Secondly, competitive democracy emphasizes election; while deliberative democracy focuses on the public deliberation and discussion before the vote.Since deliberative democracy came into being, it has not been resting on the nominative sphere but has made many creative and specific institutional designs on gearing of deliberative democracy concept and formal system, i.e. "the institutionalization of democratic dialogue," such as citizens conference, deliberative opinion poll, citizens jury, scenario workshop, deliberative day and so on. Right now, deliberative democracy is not only widely applied in Europe and America, but many countries and regions in Asia is also starting to adopt this new form of democracy. For instance, Japan, ROK and Taiwan have held many citizens conference etc.. Even more, the practice of deliberative democracy has exceeded the border of nation-state, such as EU, which has started to take deliberative democracy as an important measure of solving its "democracy deficit".According to the case of deliberative democracy practice, deliberative democracy really plays the role of promoting the legalization of public decision, improving the quality of democratic governance, enhancing the wish of citizens to participate public affairs and improving citizens’ awareness. But if deliberative democracy is taken as the elixir to solve the problem caused by competitive democracy, it is too romantic and optimistic. Actually, deliberative democracy, like any other theory, is facing inquiry and challenges. Citizens, after public deliberation, might not reach democratic decision, but extremes, causing "group polarization" phenomenon. The political, economic and other inequality of citizens in reality has restricted the effect public deliberation. The question on participation inducement theory and social division also abates the application of deliberative democracy.Deliberative democracy is three-dimensional, hoping to improve the reality and enhance the quality of democracy through the power of ideal. It is a dream created for the future of democracy and a delineation of the ideal democracy rather than the status quo. Therefore, deliberative democracy is a normative theory intending to restore the ancient active role of citizens and the deliberation tradition. It affirms the great significance of participation and deliberation in the construction of democratic theory, and provides a criterion for testing and criticizing the existing democratic system. This is conducive to the enhancement of the quality of democracy. In modern nation-states, deliberative democracy cannot fully or possibly replace the operation of competitive democracy. It only finds its existence in attachment to the activities and procedures of present democratic system.Today the focus of discussion at home and abroad is no longer whether to promote China’s democratic political development, but how to push forward it in a more effective way. But "the basis of democracy is the two legs of democracy. Only by measuring the two legs and their span, can ideal show its real demeanor, and can we be guided in power and director." At present, on the one hand, the pluralization of economy and social structure makes citizens’ demand for competitive democracy more great, and one the other, the democratic political development in China has clear value orientation, not advocating competitive democracy and avoiding competitive value preference and institutional design. This kind of avoidance is sure to delay the course of democratic political development. Therefore, the problem of our country’s democratic political development is: under the situation of having to farewell to non-competitive democracy but competitive democracy facing dilemma, how to push forward the democratic political development in China? In this case, the application of deliberative democracy can moderate the pressure of electoral democracy.This is because deliberative democracy is a kind of "democracy of governing power", which does not pay attention to the basic question of ruling power, but only the question whether the lawmaking and public decision sector are democratic. Therefore, deliberative democracy is "amendment" to democratic politics, rather than "revolution", i.e. the process that does not change the present power structure and converge the various social interests and requirements into public decision through deliberative democracy. In this way public governance is no longer the patent of the small group of elites, but is popular, open and widely participated in. Through citizens’ participation and deliberation on lawmaking and public decision sectors, the expression of sound opinions is encouraged, the legalization of public policy enhanced, the quality of democratic governance improved and thus the pressure on competitive election moderated.The application of deliberative democracy in China is also limited, because the foundation of democratic politics is "the democracy of regime", i.e. the democracy that focuses on the legalization of ruling power origin and on who enjoy the legal power to govern the country. At present, the democracy of regime is electoral democracy, the rulers being endowed the power to govern the country through election. In fact, in the relationship between the democracy of regime and that of governing, only the democracy of regime can secure the smooth operation of democracy of governing. In China, the biggest restriction in applying deliberative democracy lies in that, due to the deficit of electoral democracy, officials cannot really feel the power in hand is endowed by people. Officials cannot be secured to carry our deliberation with citizens whole-heartedly. This affects the truthfulness of deliberation. Therefore, China, while promoting deliberative democracy, needs to respond to some extend to the requirement for electoral democracy.

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CLC: > Political, legal > Political Theory > Other political and theoretical issues > Democracy, human rights,civil rights
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