Deliberative Democracy failure?

Help! The following headline appeared in the (UK) Guardian newspaper. It’s about Germany, and seems to be saying that DD was used, but failed.

Was DD used here? OR are they trying to say it should have been?


Stuttgart 21 is a failure of deliberative democracy

The lack of dialogue on plans to redevelop Stuttgart’s train station has led to a loss of faith in the political system


Extract from the article:

…….Deliberative democracy was an ideal-type concept, which has not challenged representative democracy very much. However, some of its elements, especially with the legitimising force of deliberation and involvement, should become part of the policymakers’ tool boxes. Democracy is a communicative system. James Fishkin, an American political scientist and professor at Stanford University, has suggested a “deliberative polling” process that allows for the repeated interaction between policymakers and citizens. It is not only about signalling citizens’ preference to the politicians but also about making these preferences an issue for discussion.

It is about strategic and long-term involvement of citizens who want to be taken seriously. Democracy is not in crisis. People are as political as they have ever been, but politics should allow for a bigger spectrum of involvement procedures in order not to endanger representative decision-making procedures.

In the case of Stuttgart 21, government officials and the Bahn claim that the whole process gained huge legitimacy as it was discussed in parliaments and committees of all the regions and municipalities involved. Hence, those in favour of the project argued that a process of public deliberation would undermine the powers and competencies of the democratic institutions that decided on the project.

Nevertheless, there is strong evidence for the malfunction of these institutions. The Stuttgart 21 project has been covered by many polls and citizens’ skepticism was evident right from the start. This skepticism has become more and more visible as people no longer trust the political system but gather in the streets of Stuttgart to protest against the tearing down of the old main station.

3 Responses

  1. The article is not clearly written. It is not condemning the Deliberative Democracy methodology of Fishkin, but rather saying that the deliberations, of various sorts and of various bodies, was not accepted by the policy makers.
    Which is why “The Common Lot” is the ‘next step for democracy’.


  2. DD has enough challenges to reach the mainstream without bizarrely incorrect headlines like that. In an earlier FB post I slammed the journalist, but now I’ll bet it was all mucked up by an editor. In a major newspaper like the Guardian, a multitude who only read the headline and nothing further are unfortunately left with scepticism.


  3. What a mess of an article. Can the following be interpreted as anything except as paternalistic condescension?

    It [DP®] is not only about signalling citizens’ preference to the politicians but also about making these preferences an issue for discussion.


    Sure, politicians sometimes have to make unpopular decisions. But they cannot ignore ongoing and massive critical voices among citizens.


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