Cornell University Press,
Cornell University Press:
»On the limited conception of deliberative democracy for which I am arguing, reasoning and deliberation are conceived in terms of the actual communication of agents' positions and beliefs, thus shifting the attention to actual processes of moral argumentation.«
Based on her own experiences as a citizen of Canada – a country in which cultural minorities play an important role in social and political issues – Monique Deveaux's Cultural Pluralism and Dilemmas of Justice stands as a relevant work in the field of political science. »The present work is thus an attempt to both evaluate and extend recent efforts in political theory to address the problem of justice for cultural minorities.« (2) Deveaux's principal claim concentrates on the issue of 'appropriate respect and consent for cultural pluralism' which can be feasible through the application of 'deliberative liberalism', a revised version of liberal democracy.
According to Deveaux, the proposal advanced in her book relies on 'a thicker conception of democracy than liberal theorists normally employ', a more participatory and dynamic form of democracy. »A substantive, deliberative conception of democracy emphasizes the importance of citizens' participation in public life and the need to foster political relationships and practices based on reciprocity, political equality, and mutual respect – all crucial to meeting basic justice claims by national minorities and immigrants alike.« (5)
The term 'cultural' if often problematic, as Deveaux recognizes. She uses it in its widest sense, as to include any community that shares an identity based not on voluntary activism (as it may occur in gay, lesbian, or new religious groups), but mainly in nationality, ethnicity, language, and religion, among other features. In this sense, Deveaux regularly refers to minorities such as Basques, Quebecois, Scots, and Welsh.
A key concept in Deveaux's defense of deliberative democracy is her critique of traditional accounts of liberal democracy – those represented by Rawls and Larmore – which argue in favor of a 'neutral liberal justice'. Justice as advocated by Rawls and Larsmore requires that citizens bracket off their particular world-views based on their religious and moral convictions. Identifying herself with Joseph Raz and Will Kymlicka's 'liberal perfectionism', Deveaux argues against the requirement of bracketing off the religious and moral perspectives of groups in discussing political issues. Accordingly, diverse conceptions of the good cannot be simply bracketed from political discussions, for they are fundamental to any culture. Thus, ethics cannot stand apart from politics.
The notion of deliberative liberalism – a modified form of democratic liberalism – allows cultural minorities to shape their own public and political institutions. This can be achieved, the author proposes, by means of shifting the core of democratic legitimacy to actual debate. In this way, Deveaux draws partially from Habermas' discourse ethics which seeks the actual approval of all participants, or at least the majority, to legitimize public and political norms and procedures. Deveaux thinks that actual argumentation may offer a more adequate answer to problems of justice when it renounces to ideals of complete consensus or unrestrained dialogue, along with a more open attitude to different ways of deliberative discourse. »The real merits of deliberative democracy lie not in the illusory goal of social consensus, nor in the ideal of unconstrained dialogue ... but rather in the capacity of this model to deepen democratic practices in liberal states.« (175-176) »On the limited conception of deliberative democracy for which I am arguing, reasoning and deliberation are conceived in terms of the actual communication of agents' positions and beliefs, thus shifting the attention to actual processes of moral argumentation.« (177)
Openness to moral communication in public debate and our recognition of its importance in the shaping of minorities' political norms and institutions seems to summarize Deveaux view on the subject. Deveaux's ideas seem to be fair and well-argued, positing deliberative liberalism as a viable alternative to traditional liberal theories.