Deliberating Deliberation in the Politics of Health from a Practical and Theoretical Perspective

Panel Code

Theorists and practitioners have grappled with the question of how best to establish deliberative equality in the face of stark power disparities in liberal democracies (Karpowitz, Raphael and Hammond 2009). A variety of civic forums for deliberation have emerged particularly in the public health sector, often aiming to neutralise these inequities among participants through proportional inclusion of disempowered speakers and discourses (Ibid). The four pillars of deliberation – legitimacy, representation, communication and consensus – serve to build trust, create social capital and create greater civic engagement which increase public confidence in government and governance processes (Dryzek 2012, Weymouth 2015). Yet, nonetheless inequalities among participants in deliberative forums pose challenges, particularly in more heterogeneous groups and the ability to arrive at a consensus where there is a diversity of viewpoints rather than falling into group-think and polarisation, and can persuade external stakeholders of the legitimacy of the group’s deliberations often prevail. One way to break the distorting influence of power inequalities on deliberative decision-making processes is by deepening democratic inclusion. Deep inclusion consists of not only who is present for a decision-making process but also how they are involved. Achieving deep inclusion in deliberative processes therefore requires involving not only a range of relevant stakeholders but also roughly equivalent numbers of different types of stakeholders. It further entails promoting qualitative equality, which means ensuring that individuals have a fair or equal chance to influence the priority-setting process and have their voices heard. As such, deliberative methods are of increasing interest to both theorists and practitioners in the politics of health, considering the challenges and benefits of deliberative democracy as a solution to inequality. This panel invites papers that explore the recent fascination with deliberative strategies for participation in a variety of civic forums through the examination of both democratic theory and through the analysis of experiences with deliberative methods. Papers that explore methods of deliberative inclusion, collaborative democracy, best practice and also critical perspectives that engage with how these processes create greater (in)equality or produce/enforce/erode borders are encouraged.