Referendums, deliberation, democracy

Special report: Referendums: In the name of democracy?
By Laurence Morel, Marion Paoletti

Referendums are strangely absent from the contemporary participatory movement, probably in the name of deliberation, with which they are deemed incompatible. Yet they have many advantages (participation is wider than with other participatory tools, they lead to decisions, and such decisions have a potentially high legitimacy) and their use is becoming more frequent. While presenting the articles of this special issue, the introduction examines the increasing practice of referendums and reviews the criticisms addressed to the process by deliberative democrats. It attempts to provide the counterarguments that referendums are not as divisive as is claimed, that they can even help to resolve crises, and that referendum decisions are not necessarily incompetent. Above all, some recent referendums, with some adjustments to their practice, have proved to be more in line with the criteria of deliberation. And beyond the decisions that they produce, referendums may have an impact on the political system, allowing for a more deliberative democracy.


  • referendums
  • deliberation
  • democracy
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