have discussed in this book: cultural pluralism, which undermines the possibility of a general will, a unitary common good, and a singular public reason; social inequalities, which may produce a vicious circle of exclusion from effective participation in deliberation; social complexity, which makes it necessary for deliberation to take place in large and increasingly powerful institutions; and community-wide biases, which may restrict public communication and which also narrow the scope of feasible solutions to social conflicts and problems. I have argued that overcoming these obstacles requires going beyond the civic-republican and Kantian origins of deliberative democratic theories. These conceptions of public reason cannot solve the challenges to democracy that are typical of a pluralist and complex society having a high degree of social conflict and inequality, large and powerful social institutions, and a highly contested public sphere.
The success of a deliberative form of democracy depends on creating social conditions and institutional arrangements that foster the public use of reason. Deliberation is public to the extent that these arrangements permit free and open dialogue among citizens, who make informed and reasoned judgments about ways to resolve problematic situations. In chapter 1, I outlined the dialogical mechanisms that make convincing public reasons and cooperative agreements more likely. In basing this process on the pragmatic goal of continued cooperation of politically equal citizens, I have offered an ideal of deliberative democracy that is less normatively demanding than either the Kantian or the communitarian alternatives. My argument nonetheless tries to save the core of such egalitarian and participatory (if not radical) theories of democracy and their critical orientation toward current institutions. As opposed to Kantian and communitarian theories, I see public deliberation primarily as a joint social activity. Public deliberation is a dynamic activity performed by a plural subject, precisely the sort of activity that is maintained in the give-and-take of reasons that enhances the quality of justification for political decisions. At the same time, I have argued that such a dialogical process must take place in a revisable institutional and interpretive framework; the ongoing dialogue between the deliberating public and the institutions that organize their deliberation keeps this framework open and democratic, Without this dialogue, democracy loses its capacity to generate
Deliberative Democracy and Its Critics
legitimate political power. First, when public opinion is not institutionally organized, it remains inchoate and ineffective. Second, when there is no public input and no public control, these same organizing institutions become dependent on non-democratic forms of power. This sort of interchange between institutions and their publics is as important to deliberative democracy as the quality of public discussion and debate among citizens. Not only does it permit innovation and democratic change; it makes the institutions that organize deliberation more responsive and more effective.
Besides claiming that deliberation requires political perfectionism and amorphous popular power, the critics of deliberative democracy see public opinion as too indeterminate to be a norm for political rule. According the Hegel's well-known remark in The Philosophy of Right, public opinion must be "as much respected as despised."1 For Hegel, public opinion is nothing more than "unorganized opinion and volition" reflecting the current conflicts in civil society. Habermas sees the commercialization of the public sphere as producing the same result. Contrary to such indeterminate and rhetorically influenced opinion, Hegel contends that only the sciences offer a rational alternative: in them, rational beliefs are "not a matter of turns of phrase, allusiveness, half utterances and silences, but consist in the unambiguous, determinate and open expression of their meaning and significance."2 Lippmann too saw expert authority as a way to counteract unstable public opinion.3 Similarly,Joseph Bessette has recently argued that deliberative majorities need an "external basis," which is to be found in a body of traditional republican principles and in the periodic emergence of extraordinary statesmen who resist the temptations of un reflective public opinions and passions.4 Bruce Ackerman likewise calls for periods of "higher lawmaking" to be judged by higher moral standards, sometimes found in the Supreme Court's or the president's ability to ignore limited public opinion.5 Such sympathetic and unsympathetic critics of deliberative democracy alike insist there must be an external standard to limit and define public opinion, and thus that deliberation cannot define its own guiding norms and procedure-independent standards.
In chapter 51 I argued that public opinion emerges outside organizing institutions when the needs of the public are no longer met in