Deliberative Democracy or Agnostic
As mentioned briefly before, the interest for
deliberative democracy bloomed partly because deliberative democrats wanted to
properly participate in the decision-making and were criticising the aggregative
model for limiting that. They believed that deliberative democrats also
criticised the model because they felt that by deliberating different issues,
views and policies it would demand a deeper understanding of democracy.
Although deliberative democrats weren’t the only ones
who wanted to introduce an alternative to the dominant aggravated model, they
were quite unique in their perspective. Unlike other critics, not only did they
want popular participations in the decision-making process, which was earlier discouraged
or limited by liberals, they were keen on providing allegiance to liberal
democracy by combining democratic sovereignty with liberal institutions.
They did so by reinterpreting popular sovereignty in new
terms and branding it as “communicatively generated power”, this they believed
would abolish any danger posed to liberal views. However, critics to
deliberative democracy argues that by giving everybody in society a chance to
speak their voice it would also be hard to have the rational consensus they
believe it would entail. Instead, society would see what can only be described
as a negative force of people who openly challenges democracy as a whole, hence
the danger to the liberal views of societies. (Mouffe, 2000)
John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas are two schools that
primarily can be classified as the main views in deliberative democracy.
Rawls and Habermas agree on some views such as that public-
and private autonomy goes hand in hand but argues that the public domain is not
a neutral ground. By potentially demoting pluralism to a non-public domain, fundamental
issues such as justice or basic principles would be separated from its
Habermas argued that only his approach would be able
to think individually of liberal rights and public autonomy, he means that the
key to a well-functioning society is legitimacy and that individual rights
would benefit from public autonomy.
Rawls on the other hand thinks justice of being the
key to a well-functioning society and that unless democratic sovereignty
subordinated to liberal rights then that government would not be legitimate. (Mouffe,
According to Mouffe (2000), neither of them could
deliver because they are ignoring the fact that there are fundamental tensions
between individual rights and that of democratic sovereignty and that it is
hard to eliminate one or the other, as they are both constitutive of liberal
Model of Democracy
The agnostic model of democracy was introduced because
of the shortcomings of the deliberative approach. Advocates of agnostic
democracy argued that the former approach didn’t understand the nature of
politics and pluralism, where power is not to be seen as an external factor to
democracy nor as the enemy but more of a factor that would benefit democracy.
In order to understand democracy, you would have to
agree on the fact that any form of social objectivity is equal to political
order, thus the need to convergence between objectivity and power.
There would also have to be a distinction of what Mouffe
(2000), calls “the political” and the “politics”. The “political” being the social relations and activities
inherited by humans and the” politics” being the collective practises,
discourse and institutions that allow people to coexist.
Politics always aims to unite despite the notions of
there being an “us” and “them”, these terms being the people and those in power.
Eradicating these terms are impossible but the
agnostic pluralisms purposes is to use the idea of “them” and turning it from
an enemy to an adversary, that being “…someone whose ideas we combat but whose
right to defend those ideas we do not put in question” (Mouffe, 2000; 15)
To conclude, agnostic democrats believe that because an
adversary is a legitimate opponent, thus indicating that if anyone is in power,
then that is legitimate because it has been consented by an electorate, which
in turns makes this approach a legitimate form of government.