Robert E. Goodin. Innovating Democracy: Democratic Theory and Practice after the Deliberative Turn. [Book Review]

Philosophy in Review 29 (5):29-31 (2009)
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Despite Jon Elster’s caveat that the market potentially endangers the forum, Goodin insists that commercial innovations, such as the focus group and the market test, would actually strengthen democracy and citizen engagement. His thesis in this book is that governments should task members of smallscale deliberative bodies — or what he calls, in the singular, a ‘micro-public’, and what Robert Dahl before him termed a ‘mini-populus’ — to experiment with alternative solutions to public problems. While the book is a collection of previously published essays, many are extensively altered and rewritten to support this thesis and to round out a literature that has recently become increasingly oriented toward deliberative practice. Indeed, Goodin is more circumspect than some of the less praxis-focused deliberative theorists — for instance, Jürgen Habermas — concerning the capacity of deliberative forums to displace traditional democratic institutions: ‘Inevitably . . . deliberative democracy can only supplement rather than supplant the institutional apparatus of representative democracy as we know it’ (7-8). The book is organized into two sections, one concerning the design and function of small-scale deliberative bodies or micro-publics, and the other devoted to deliberative activities in macro-political institutions, including the translation of micro-public recommendations into sound public policy (what is often called ‘uptake’).

Author's Profile

Shane Ralston
University of Ottawa (PhD)


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