Habermas with a Whiff of Tear Gas: Nonviolent Campaigns and Deliberation in an Era of Authoritarianism

Abstract

Authoritarianism is gaining around the world. Statistics show that deliberation shrinks when authoritarianism grows. In the face of authoritarian repression, directly promoting and organizing deliberation is likely to fail. However, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan (2011) find that nonviolent campaigns have a strong record of success against authoritarian states. Although nonviolent campaigns are not themselves deliberative or aimed at building deliberative democracy, I argue that some of the reasons that make them successful also stand to benefit public deliberation. Thus the most promising strategy for expanding deliberation in an increasingly authoritarian world is to support nonviolent campaigns and to reinforce strategies of nonviolent confrontation that also yield deliberation. Jürgen Habermas anticipated this argument in his defense of social movements. Revisiting that aspect of Habermas’ thought challenges interpretations that treat him as a theorist of calm, rational discourse.

Keywords

Habermas, authoritarianism, deliberation, social movements

How to Cite

Levine P., (2018) “Habermas with a Whiff of Tear Gas: Nonviolent Campaigns and Deliberation in an Era of Authoritarianism”, Journal of Public Deliberation 14(2). doi: https://doi.org/10.16997/jdd.306

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Authors

Peter Levine (Tufts University)

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

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This article has been peer reviewed.

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