With Habermas against Habermas. Deliberation without Consensus
University West, SE
Katarzyna Jezierska is Associate Professor and senior lecturer at the International Programme in Politics and Economics, University West, Sweden. She is also a researcher in the Gender and Diplomacy Program (GenDip) at the University of Gothenburg. Her major research interests focus on democratic theory, civil society, and political sociology.
Habermas’s conception of deliberative democracy combines two concepts—deliberation and consensus—which, I argue, draw his theory in two opposite directions. While deliberation and the focus on communication can be read as a predominantly open element of his theory, consensus stands for closure. The process of deliberation contrasts Habermas’s normative aim of deliberation, i.e., consensus. In other words, a realized consensus (in the strong, monologic formulation that Habermas favors) would put an end to the idea of continuous public justification of validity claims, i.e., deliberation. The article argues that in order to fully use the potential of deliberation in politics, we should leave behind the notion of consensus through deliberation. Instead, understanding should be the telos of deliberation, and voting after deliberation is put forth as the optimal institutional design for decision-making settings.