Participatory Deliberative Democracy in Complex Mass Societies

Mark E. Warren
2020 Journal of Deliberative Democracy  
What might participatory deliberative democracy look like in complex, mass societies? Cristina Lafont's Democracy Without Shortcuts (2019) challenges us to revisit this question by taking contemporary democratic theory to task for recommending a variety of shortcuts that would seem to reconcile democratic self-government with complex, mass societies, but do so by requiring 'blind deference' of citizens to decisions made by others. Here I make three general points. First, democracy is possible
more » ... mass, complex societies just because democratic societies and governments are full of shortcuts, through representation, political, epistemic and advocacy divisions of labour, differentiated institutions, multilevel governance, and trust relationships both among citizens and between citizens and governments. Few of these shortcuts require 'blind deference' of citizens. Second, because complex societies are highly differentiated in their structures, they also multiply opportunities for participation in ways that Lafont does not theorise owing to a statist focus on constitutional, rights-based politics. But, third, in arguing against shortcuts, Lafont underscores the importance of assessing the many kinds of principal-agent relationships in complex mass societies to ensure they advance rather than undermine the norms of participatory deliberative democracy.
doi:10.16997/jdd.395 fatcat:izgtkibvibavxnph2as7rvbttq