Deliberation and Participation: Elective Affinity or Concepts in Tension with One Another?

Democracy and Participation: A Review of Existing Knowledge
By Yves Sintomer

Deliberation and participation are often seen as complementary. Nevertheless, they could also be in tension. A good deliberation and the participation of the many have often been opposed. How is it possible to understand this paradox? The article begins with an analysis of the way in which ancient and modern Republics have articulated deliberation and participation. A special emphasis is put on Durkheim, whose position symbolizes a paternalist Republicanism. The second part explains how the emergence of the concept of the public sphere, in Habermas’ work and in the social and human sciences, represents a democratic shift in comparison with this Republican tradition, and how the challenge is to propose a realistic conception of the public sphere. The third part focuses on the theories of deliberative democracy, which are divided between those who put the light on the deliberation of mini-publics and those who insist on the participation of the mass public. The conclusion explores the relationships between deliberation, participation, and representation.


  • democracy
  • deliberative democracy
  • participatory democracy
  • public sphere
  • Habermas
  • Durkheim
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