The most widely debated conception of democracy in recent years is deliberative democracy--the idea that citizens or their representatives owe each other mutually acceptable reasons for the laws they enact. Two prominent voices in the ongoing discussion are Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson. In Why Deliberative Democracy?, they move the debate forward beyond their influential book, Democracy and Disagreement.What exactly is deliberative democracy? Why is it more defensible than its rivals? By offering clear answers to these timely questions, Gutmann and (...) Thompson illuminate the theory and practice of justifying public policies in contemporary democracies. They not only develop their theory of deliberative democracy in new directions but also apply it to new practical problems. They discuss bioethics, health care, truth commissions, educational policy, and decisions to declare war. In "What Deliberative Democracy Means," which opens this collection of essays, they provide the most accessible exposition of deliberative democracy to date. They show how deliberative democracy should play an important role even in the debates about military intervention abroad.Why Deliberative Democracy? contributes to our understanding of how democratic citizens and their representatives can make justifiable decisions for their society in the face of the fundamental disagreements that are inevitable in diverse societies. Gutmann and Thompson provide a balanced and fair-minded approach that will benefit anyone intent on giving reason and reciprocity a more prominent place in politics than power and special interests. (shrink)
Democracy is prone to what may be called presentism ? a bias in the laws in favor of present over future generations. I identify the characteristics of democracies that lead to presentism, and examine the reasons that make it a serious problem. Then I consider why conventional theories are not adequate to deal with it, and develop a more satisfactory alternative approach, which I call democratic trusteeship. Present generations can represent future generations by acting as trustees of the democratic process. (...) The general principle is that present generations should act to protect the democratic process itself over time. They should try to make sure that future citizens continue to have competent control over their collective decision?making. (shrink)
Are public officials morally justified in threatening violence, engaging in deception, or forcing citizens to act for their own good? Can individual officials be held morally accountable for the wrongs that governments commit? Dennis Thompson addresses these questions by developing a conception of political ethics that respects the demands of both morality and politics. He criticizes conventional conceptions for failing to appreciate the difference democracy makes, and for ascribing responsibility only to isolated leaders or to impersonal organizations. His book seeks (...) to recapture the sense that men and women, acting for us and together with us in a democratic process, make the moral choices that govern our public life. Thompson surveys ethical conflicts of public officials over a range of political issues, including nuclear deterrence, foreign intervention, undercover investigation, bureaucratic negligence, campaign finance, the privacy of officials, health care, welfare paternalism, drug and safety regulation, and social experimentation. He views these conflicts from the perspectives of many different kinds of public officials - elected and appointed executives at several levels of government, administrators, judges, legislators, governmental advisers, and even doctors, lawyers, social workers, and journalists whose professional roles often thrust them into public life. In clarifying the ethical problems faced by officials, Thompson combines theoretical analysis with practical prescription, and begins to define a field of inquiry for which many have said there is a need but to which few have yet contributed. Philosophers, political scientists, policy analysts, sociologists, lawyers, and other professionals interested in ethics in government will gain insight from this book. (shrink)
In modern pluralist societies, political disagreement often reflects moral disagreement, as citizens with conflicting perspectives on fundamental values debate the laws that govern their public life. Any satisfactory theory of democracy must provide a way of dealing with this moral disagreement. A fundamental problem confronting all democratic theorists is to find a morally justifiable way of making binding collective decisions in the face of continuing moral conflict.
In this important collection of essays Dennis Thompson argues for a more robust conception of responsibility in public life than prevails in contemporary democracies. He suggests that we should stop thinking so much about public ethics in terms of individual vices and start thinking about it more in terms of institutional vices. Combining theory and practice with many concrete examples and proposals for reform, these essays could be used in courses in applied ethics or political theory and will be read (...) by professionals and graduate students in schools of political science, public policy, law, public health, journalism and business. (shrink)
Hospital ethics, familiar enough in practice but surprisingly neglected in the literature, deals with the ethical problems that arise distinctively or typically in hospitals. More precisely, it consists of the ethical principles that shouldgovern 1) the conduct of healthcare professionals and other staff in their capacities as members of the hospital as an institution, and 2) the conduct of the hospital itself as an institution. It is a species of institutional ethics, which focuses on the ethical problems created or significantly (...) shaped by the institutional setting in which they occur. (shrink)
Moral disagreement about public policies—issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and health care—is a prominent feature of contemporary American democracy. Yet it is not a central concern of the leading theories of democracy. The two dominant democratic approaches in our time—procedural democracy and constitutional democracy—fail to offer adequate responses to the problem of moral disagreement. Both suggest some elements that are necessary in any adequate response, but neither one alone nor both together are sufficient. We argue here that an adequate (...) conception of democracy must make moral deliberation an essential part of the political process. What we call “deliberative democracy” adds an important dimension to the theory and practice of politics that the leading conceptions of democracy neglect. (shrink)
...Witherspoon's Course in Political Theory, as Taken by James Madison Dennis F. Thompson Princeton University [523...Witherspoon's Course in Political Theory, as Taken by James Madison. James Madison was an unusually wen-prepared student when, at eighteen...
Tous les théoriciens de la démocratie ont à confronter le problème fondamental qui consiste à trouver une façon moralement justifiable de prendre des décisions collectives contraignantes face à des désaccords moraux persistants. Une théorie délibérative de la démocratie nous fournit l’approche la mieux défendable de ce problème parce qu’elle laisse ouverte la possibilité que les valeurs morales exprimées par un large éventail de théories puissent être justifiables. Le principe fondamental de notre théorie délibérative est que les citoyens doivent se justifier (...) réciproquement les lois qu’ils s’imposent mutuellement. Les citoyens ou leurs représentants offrent des raisons les uns aux autres dans un processus permanent de justification mutuelle. Les principes qui guident ce processus sont provisoires moralement et politiquement et permettent donc la persistance du désaccord moral à propos de lois, de politiques et d’institutions tout en ouvrant la possibilité de l’accord moral sur les lois, politiques et institutions qui sont mutuellement justifiables.All democratic theorists confront the fundamental problem of finding a morally justifiable way of making binding collective decisions in the face of continuing moral disagreement. A deliberative theory of democracy provides the most defensible approach to this problem because it leaves open the possibility that the moral values expressed by a wide range of theories may be justifiable. The fundamental principle of our deliberative theory is that citizens owe one another justifications for the laws they collectively impose on one another. Citizens or their accountable representatives offer reasons to one another in an ongoing process of mutual justification. The principles that guide this process are morally and politically provisional, and thus allow for the persistence of moral disagreement about laws, policies, and institutions, and at the same time for the possibility of moral agreement about those that are mutually justifiable. (shrink)
Although oppressive social practices like capitalism are often portrayed as static, totalizing social 'structures' with 'logics' and 'imperatives' that must be accommodated politically and economically, such portrayals are problematic both theoretically and politically. They rest on determinist and essentialist conceptions of social practices, and they curtail the scope of politics, government regulation, and human action and creativity. Fortunately, social practices can instead be conceptualized as thoroughly social, historical, and contingent, and thus susceptible to political intervention and reworking, as many feminist, (...) post-structuralist, and anti-economistic Marxian theorists do. Attempting to build on such alternative conceptualizations, I argue that Judith Butler's concept of reiteration provides a particularly useful, in-depth theorization of power, the mechanisms enabling social practices to endure and change, and the role of the individual and collectivities in perpetuating and challenging social practices such as capitalism. In so doing, the concept of reiteration offers a compelling and detailed non-voluntaristic account of human agency. Butler's work is thus helpful in theorizing and empirically investigating both the obstacles to and the possibilities for resisting exploitation and altering unjust social practices. (shrink)