Democratic Deliberation and Social Choice: A Review

In André Bächtiger, Jane Mansbridge, John Dryzek & Mark Warren (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2018)
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In normative political theory, it is widely accepted that democracy cannot be reduced to voting alone, but that it requires deliberation. In formal social choice theory, by contrast, the study of democracy has focused primarily on the aggregation of individual opinions into collective decisions, typically through voting. While the literature on deliberation has an optimistic flavour, the literature on social choice is more mixed. It is centred around several paradoxes and impossibility results identifying conflicts between different intuitively plausible desiderata. In recent years, there has been a growing dialogue between the two literatures. This paper discusses the connections between them. Important insights are that (i) deliberation can complement aggregation and open up an escape route from some of its negative results; and (ii) the formal models of social choice theory can shed light on some aspects of deliberation, such as the nature of deliberation-induced opinion change.

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Christian List
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München


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