86 • Democracy After Liberalism
I shall not review the details of the so-called "liberal-communitarian debate,"" It is worth noting, however, that parties on both sides have begun to supplement their views with an admission of the need to include, within democratic theory, an account of public discourse, debate, and deliberation. Liberal thinkers such as John Rawls, Amy Gutmann, Dennis Thompson, Joshua Cohen, and Bruce Ackerman have emphasized the role of "public reason" and deliberation in democratic decision making." Antiliberal thinkers, including Michael Sandel, Iris Young, Seyla Benhabib, and Benjamin Barber have similarly promoted a conception of democracy in which public discussion and cooperative, participatory discourse are central." Hence a vast literature on "deliberative democracy" has emerged recently. IS
Despite this apparent convergence of otherwise divided theorists upon the need for deliberation, the particular theories of deliberative democracy tend to divide neatly according to liberal/antiliberallineVrowever, as I presently shall argue, neither style of deliberative theory is satisfactory. Exposing the limitations of the different accounts of democratic deliberation will help us to discern what a satisfactory theory would look like.
Contemporary theorists of liberalism seek to mitigate the dissociative and deracinating tendencies of the adversarial model" offered by traditional liberals by promoting an "ideal of democratic citizenship" (Rawls 1996, 217) in which citizens come together in a "public political forum" (Rawls 1999b, 133). A realm in which "free public reason among equals" (Cohen 1996,412) can operate. Within this realm,
participants regard one another as equals. They aim to defend and criticize institutions and programs in terms of considerations that others have reason to accept, given the fact of reasonable pluralism and the assumption that those others are reasonable; and they are prepared to cooperate in accordance with the results of such discussion, treating those results as authoritative. (Cohen 1996, 413; cf. Rawls 1996, 218)
Cohen's invocation of reasonable pluralism is important. It is a fundamental feature of liberal deliberation theories that public reason be engaged under a specific set of restraints and restrictions. Particularly, liberal theorists of deliberative democracy tend to assert that the fact of reasonable pluralism constrains public reason, with respect to the kinds of reasons that can be employed in public debate. On the liberal view, one must avoid introducing reasons that presuppose or draw from one's own comprehensive
The Deliberative Turn in Democratic Theory • 87
doctrine. When deliberating, citizens must confine themselves to considerations that others have reason to accept; reasons that derive from a particular comprehensive doctrine cannot win general acceptance in public debate, and are therefore, inadmissible.
On the liberal view, then, citizens must conduct public debate in strictly political terms. Consequently, the liberal places restriction not only upon the reasons deliberating citizens can employ in public debate, but also upon the questions which are suitable for the public deliberative agenda. Questions and issues that cannot be debated in political terms are removed from the political agenda. Rawls explains, "Faced with the fact of reasonable pluralism, a liberal view removes from the political agenda the most divisive issues, serious contention about which must undermine the bases of social cooperation" (1996,157). Thomas Nagel concurs,
Where no common standpoint is available at any level to authorize the collective determination by democratic procedures of policies about which individuals find themselves in radical disagreement because of incompatible values, it is best, if possible, to remove those subjects from the reach of political action. (1991, 166)
Therefore, liberal democratic deliberation is subject to what Bruce Ackerman calls "conversational restraints" (1989,16):
When you and I learn that we disagree about a dimension of the moral truth, we should not search for some common value that will trump this disagreement ... we should simply say nothing at all about this disagreement and try to solve our problem by invoking premises that we do agree upon. In restraining ourselves in this way, we need not lose the chance to talk to one another about our deepest moral disagreements in countless other, more private, contexts. (1989,16-17)
Ackerman's term, "conversational restraint," is especially apt because it captures the dual aspect of the constraint. Liberal deliberation conversation is restrained with respect to one's reasons and with respect to the topics which can be deliberated about. As public debate must be conducted in terms that others "have reason to accept" (Cohen 1996,413), it must eschew deep controversy at the level of comprehensive doctrines. Consequently, attempts to settle deep moral, religious, and philosophical disputes are removed from politics and relegated to the private realm.
As is suggested by the previous quotations, liberals advocate public disussion and debate, yet place the basic commitments and principles of libral ism beyond the reach of political deliberation. Gutmann and