In the political and academic debates alike it is often presumed that increased engagement from civil society in deliberative practices strengthens democratic institutions. We believe that this presumption rests on a vague and underdeveloped notion of political equality. This project sets out to explore the question of how civil society may be included in deliberative dialogues and practices in ways that satisfy a requirement of political equality. It will be responded to through five studies.

Two of the studies are theoretical in nature: the first analyzes of how civic and deliberation engagement can conceptually accommodate a condition of political equality, whereas the second addresses how this engagement may be defended together with a normative criterion of political equality. The following three studies are mainly empirical and draw on the worked out theoretical framework. We will first investigate to what extent requirements of what constitutes a legitimate argument in deliberation are too demanding and thus may counteract political equality. Thereafter, focus is directed at citizens’ will and capacity for engaging in deliberative dialogues, which will be investigated through a survey and experiments. Finally, the increased use of network governance in public policy-making will be studied to explore to what extent participation, representativity, and conditions for political dialogue fulfil basic requirements of political equality, as they often are intended to do.

Contact: Eva Erman.