As the theory of deliberative democracy developed in the late-1980s and 1990s much of the focus was on its normative foundations. However, for the last decade there has been a greater focus on practice and institutionalization, accompanied by a wealth of empirical evidence on deliberative democracy. Therefore, there is now a need to return to these normative debates in light of this empirical evidence. Jürg Steiner’s book aims to contribute to this endeavour by concentrating on the “interplay between normative and empirical aspects of deliberation” (1). In undertaking this goal he acknowledges that he is not a professional philosopher, but rather writing as an empiricist taking the perspective of an engaged citizen. The introduction says very little that is new or innovative in relation to deliberative democracy. It mainly sets out Steiner’s core aims of the book and his position. For Steiner a viable democracy includes competitive elections, strategic bargaining, aggregative voting, and street protests combined with deliberation. Deliberative democracy is, therefore, not an alternative model for Steiner but one which can work within representative democracy. In the introduction Steiner relates to other deliberative democrats, such as Michael Neblo and Simon Niemeyer, by noting that deliberative democracy has come of age enabling the theoretical model to be empirically investigated (Bohman 1998). Hence the empirical stance he takes throughout the book. Steiner argues that the book will show how “empirical research can provoke reflection on normative values” (2). This is in essence what the book does. In agreement with Steiner, he insists that there is always a tension between deliberative ideals and putting these ideals into practice; this is core to the book.
"The Foundations of Deliberative Democracy: Empirical Research and Normative Implications,"
International Dialogue: Vol. 3, Article 27.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/id-journal/vol3/iss1/27