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  • 1 The first and third sections of this chapter draw upon a chapter in another book (Rucht, forthcoming).
  • 2 In his later work, when referring to political contexts, Habermas also emphasized the role of a political-ethical (instead of an abstract moral) and a pragmatic foundation of political action (Habermas 1992: 297ff.).
  • 3 Habermas was often misinterpreted as a dreamer who denied the factual restrictions of empirical communication. His point, however, was that the ideal speech situation is a counterfactual assumption of speakers to which they adhere as soon as they honestly start, and not just pretend, to argue. In this sense, the exchange of arguments is resting on ‘ideal’ presuppositions as if these were in place. In other words, the interlocutors, in the act of arguing, bracket the restrictions of an empirical discourse, for instance, time constraints or the different status of the speakers.
  • 4 For an extension of Habermas’ model of discourse see, for example, Young (1996). Like some of her colleagues, she thinks that Habermas gives too much weight to the cognitive and rational aspects of the discourse. Therefore, she pleas for the inclusion of greeting, rhetoric and storytelling. For the role of the latter aspect in deliberation, see also Poletta 2006, Chapter 4.
  • 5 See The full citation also includes criteria for defining deliberation: ‘The lifeblood of democracy is healthy deliberation - not mere conversations and one-sided debates, but discussions which require exposure to conflicting views and a willingness to be challenged and to listen.’
  • 6 For sceptical views, see, for example, Dahl 1997; Sanders 1997; Shapiro 1999; and Kohn 2000.
  • 7 Unanimity based on exhaustion of the dissenters or respect of an overwhelming majority view is not the same as a consensus to which everybody agrees by strong conviction.
  • 8 Deliberation is very unlikely to occur when the participants perceive each other as enemies or are ‘true believers’ in fundamentally different values, when the stakes are extremely high or when the rules of the game, though privileging clearly one conflict party, cannot be altered. In cases of insurmountable disagreement, Ackerman (1989) suggests bracketing the issue. This, however, is only possible in some situations.
  • 9 For a discussion of such factors, see Steiner et al. 2004; and Ryfe 2005.
  • 10 Habermas (1973) distinguishes between a theoretical discourse (on a factual question) and a practical discourse (on a normative question). While the former searches for ‘truth’, the latter is oriented towards the ‘rightness’ or ‘adequacy’ (Richtigkeit/ Angemessenheit) of norms.
  • 11 Poletta (2002: 148), in her analysis of the US New Left in the sixties, does not see a trade-off between these aims: the participatory democratic dilemma that new leftists faced lay neither in the tension between democracy and efficacy nor in that between unity and difference. Rather, it was in the intrinsic limits of pedagogy and friendship as models for democratic principles.
  • 12 Most of the ideas of this section as well as the three methodological tools are the result of a close collaboration in which, apart from the author, Christoph Haug, Simon Teune and Mundo Yang participated.
  • 13 On the strategic use of arguments in a process of bargaining, see Elster 1992.
  • 14 We use the term non-communicative power with regard to the underlying source of power that is ultimately not based on words but on acts, for instance coercion. Obviously, in group discussion, the threat to act in such a way has to be communicated to other group members.
  • 15 In our research, participation means taking part in communication and/or decision making regardless of the content of speech acts. Participation, in its minimal form, can be nodding or uttering yes or no. On the other hand, it can also be a lengthy contribution within or beyond a phase of controversy. Because the quantitative distribution of participation in controversies is independent from the qualitative type of controversies, the dimension of participation is not part of our four-fold analytical scheme.
  • 16 Various attempts have been made to empirically measure the quality of discourse or the degree of deliberation. See, for example, the edition by Bachtiger and Steiner 2005. It also includes comments by Habermas (2005) on empirical studies on deliberation.
  • 17 The project ‘Democracy in Europe and the Mobilization of Society’ was coordinated by Donatella della Porta and funded by the European Union (see http://demos.iue. it/). I wish to thank all researchers who have done the participatory observation and coding work on which the empirical analysis of this chapter is based.

The groups investigated are: Italy: National campaign on water; Attac-Florence; Britain: Thanet Friends of the Earth; University of Kent Conscious Consumers’ Group; Germany: Attac Berlin Financial Markets Group; Berlin Social Forum; France: No-Vox Network; Attac France; Spain: Cordoba Solidaria; Ecologistas en Accion Cordoba; Switzerland: Attac Geneva; Forum Social Lemanique. In addition, meetings of the transnational network Reclaim our UN Campaign have been observed. In these meetings, however, the standardized methods of observation have not been applied. Accordingly, this part of research is not included in the data presented here. For more details on the methodology, see della Porta and Rucht 2008. On methodological aspects of studying deliberation in social movement settings, see also Haug and Teune 2008.

  • 18 A controversy was identified at the basis of the following rule: ‘It starts as soon as a dissenting voice is followed by a reaction (e.g. a justification) of at least three speech acts or of a reaction that lasts more than three minutes. If two or more controversies can be connected to one and the same issue, they are considered as a single controversy.’ (See also the methodological notes and the codebook in della Porta and Rucht 2008).
  • 19 ‘The scale measures the degree to which hard power was present in the controversy. A high degree of hard power exists when either many speakers rely on some kind of hard power or when one or a few speakers use hard power to such a degree that the whole discussion is dominated by this’ (della Porta and Rucht 2008). Typical speech acts addressing hard power refer to negative or positive sanctions. One way to assess the importance of hard power is a thought experiment: whenever it makes an important difference who (or how many) put forward a certain argument or position, there is relevant hard power. Note that hard power can be used in a symmetric as well as an asymmetric manner. So asymmetry should not be confused with power.
  • 20 ‘An agenda item typically comprises a discussion or a cluster of contributions related to a specific topic. Excurses or subordinated discussions are considered part of the related agenda item. Of course, moderation and/or an agenda distributed in advance are helpful to identify separate agenda items. Aberrations and blending with other issues, however, are likely to appear in reality and make the distinction of agenda items difficult. Changes in the type of communication and/or transitional phrases (‘so much for this issue’, ‘any further questions?’) will help to identify a new agenda item. To identify an agenda item one could imagine what somebody would report as the main points of the meeting to somebody who missed it’ (della Porta and Rucht 2008).
  • 21 Up to three modes of decision taking have been coded for each controversy.
  • 22 ‘The decision is not a consensus in the literal sense because dissent has been made explicit, but all participants agreed to a decision in order to reach a common goal’ (della Porta and Rucht 2008).
  • 23 ‘All or most participants are fully convinced by the decision taken’ (della Porta and Rucht 2008). This implies that no dissent is made explicit in the immediate context of taking the decision and no signs of frustration or apathy are observable (for example, nobody signals through body language that he/she is unwilling to repeat dissent).
  • 24 Extract from an interview conducted by the author at the 4th European Social Forum 2006 in Athens.
  • 25 For a discussion of obstacles to democracy and deliberation in small groups, see Gastil (1993a, 1993b) and Young (2001).
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