Does random selection make democracies more democratic? How deliberative democracy has depoliticized a radical proposal

4. The contemporary world
By Julien Talpin

Random selection’s grand come-back in politics over the last forty years is partly due to its incorporation by the theories of deliberative democracy, which have turned randomly selected devices into the central forums of deliberation. This integration was, however, far from being self-evident. It stemmed from the scientific trajectory of its proponents and from parallel trends in the political field. Despite the breath of fresh air that random selection brings to representative government, its scientific promotion has not necessarily meant a democratization of democracy. While such experiments have demonstrated the deliberative capacities of ordinary citizens, they have only exceptionally increased their power in decision-making processes. The focus placed by research on the analysis of deliberative dynamics within randomly selected devices has therefore been harshly criticized by some deliberativists who are calling for a return to Habermas’s initial inspiration of a greater deliberation in the public sphere rather than confined to mini-publics. This systemic turn has marginalized random selection within the most recent deliberative theories. After tracing back this intellectual path, I sketch some arguments about the way random selection could rekindle the critical spirit of deliberative theory, mainly through its oppositional use by social movements.


  • history of political ideas
  • deliberation
  • depoliticization
  • professionalization
  • social movements
  • participatory democracy
  • countervailing power
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