Deliberate Silences


This article offers silences to make deliberative democracy more inclusive and diverse. Considering deliberation broadly as conversation, I advance the argument that silence may be the missing link in our democratic theories: that some silences are packed full of meaning, others can be used as temporary tactics for bringing more meaningful voices to the table, and that silent yielding is the most crucial practice for a robust democratic world. Inclusion involves at least two important dimensions. First, excluded subjects must be brought, allowed, welcomed, and embraced to democratic conversations. Excluded voices must become present. Second, and this is the more difficult dimension, exclusionary identities must be transformed in the process. Simply including more voices and meanings does little if there are structural forces that preclude the rearrangement of democratic possibilities. One such structural force is privileged identities that, by their character, are unlikely to hear and be transformed. In this regard, I put forth silent yielding as an enduring democratic habit that, if practiced sincerely, is likely to transform such identities, and transition thin democracies (ones in which citizens participate in order to simply fight for their own self-interests) into strong democracies (ones in which all citizens are welcomed to the table, and all leave the table transformed in the direction of the common). Deliberate silences combine intentionality, meaningfulness, thoughtful engagement, and robust commitment to inclusion, in order to make deliberative democracy more democratic and transformative.


silence, public deliberation, deliberative democracy

How to Cite

Jungkunz V., (2013) “Deliberate Silences”, Journal of Public Deliberation 9(1). doi:







Vincent Jungkunz (Ohio University)



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0


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This article has been peer reviewed.

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