92 • Democracy After Liberalism


The liberal deliberativists thus offer an indequate conception of citi- zenship. On the liberal view, citizens come together to deliberate, not as equal participants in the shared undertaking of self-government, but essentially as strangers; citizens deliberate not as persons, but as distilled public personae purified of non public conceptions. As San del has argued, "On the liberal conception, we respect our fellow citizen's moral and religious convictions by ignoring them" (1998, 217). The liberal conception, therefore, construes democratic participation as a kind of formal performance in which actors portray idealized, but nonetheless fictional, characters scripted to cooperatively reason together. In short, liberals offer a democratic citizenship without any actual engagement between persons. In other words, they offer no conception of democratic citizenship at all.


Antiliberal Deliberativism

Whereas liberals insist that political deliberation avoid moral concepts and controversy, the model of deliberation promoted by antiliberals is obsessed with morality. According to antiliberal deliberative theorists, shared moral discourse among citizens is the means by which a fragmented liberal community may "recover its civic voice" (Sandel 1996, 324). Participation in "public discourse" is the activity by which "me language" is transformed into "we language" (Barber 1998b, 13). That is, the shared activity of "moral dialogue" restores community values by overcoming differences through an appeal to "overarching values" implicitly shared (Etzioni 1998, 186). Through such dialogue, citizens come "to affirm new, renewed, or some other set of values" (Etzioni 1998, 190). As Barber explains:


A public voice expressing the civility of a cooperative civil society speaks in terms that reveal and elicit common grounds, cooperative strategies, overlapping interests, and a sense of the public weal. (1998a,116)


Where liberals tend to construe disagreements among persons as necessarily insurmountable differences which are best removed from the public agenda, the antiliberals are confident that commonality, shared purposes, and overlapping interests underlie all or most political disagreement. That is, while liberals tend to see agreement on fundamental matters as adventitious, artificial, and at best transitory," the antiliberals take disagreement as in authentic and temporary; they maintain that beneath the dissonance of public disagreement and conflict there is a latent harmony or purposes and interests. Public deliberation is the process by which this deep agreement, suppressed by liberal politics, can surface, and come to flourish. The value


The Deliberative Turn in Democratic Theory. 93


of deliberation hence lies in its power to realize the immanent sense of community among seemingly divided persons.

Although the antiliberals promote an optimistic, and even gratifying, picture of human society, there are many problems with their conception of deliberation. Like their liberal counterparts, the antiliberal theorists have not really addressed the fundamental difficulty facing their view. Antiliberals turned to deliberative politics as a way of meeting objections concerning majority tyranny and the other forms of oppression. Antiliberal appeals to shared values, membership, and common purposes need not suggest majoritarianism and oppression if they are supplemented with an account of deliberation which allows for respectful, reasoned disagreement among citizens morally divided. However, it has been shown that the antiliberal accounts of public discourse presuppose that fundamental agreement at deep levels already exists among persons who seem to be divided. Thus, deliberation is not a process by which persons confront real differences and try to cooperatively forge common ground. Regarding the antiliberal view, all differences are merely apparent, and common ground can always be found. In light of social scientific data that suggests deep divisions between persons (R. Putnam 2000), this confidence in underlying commonalities among ostensibly divided citizens amounts to mere wishful thinking. Moreover, it does little to address the liberal worries regarding majoritarianism."

Benjamin Barber's recent book promoting a decidedly deliberativist interpretation of his previously formulated conception of "strong democracy" is entitled A Place for US. 2 7 The allusion to West Side Story (and also to Romeo and Juliet) is fitting for reasons probably not intended by Barber. What the play reveals is that, although there is a place for Tony and a place for Maria, there really is no place for Tony and Maria. In this instance, art is imitating life: Every communal "place for us" entails a "them" who must occupy some other place. The antiliberal community, the "place for us," seems more a place for like mindedness and sameness, than for difference. cooperation, and tolerance.

Of course, antiliberals will respond that their vision of cooperative community differs from the pathological, intolerant, and oppressive forms of collectivism against which their liberal critics react. In fact, antiliberals often lay the blame for such collectivism at the door of liberalism. Barber writes, "Twentieth century collectivism is in part a consequence of the failure of liberalism to offer a healthy politics of community" (Barber 1998b-, 9); and Sandel concurs, "Where political discourse lacks moral resonance, the yearning for a public life of larger meaning finds undesirable expression ... Fundamentalists rush in where liberals fear to tread" (1996, 322; cf, SandeI1998a,216-218).