Although deliberative democracy continues to cement its status as one of the most discussed issues in contemporary normative political theory as well as today’s dominant innovation in the theory and practice of democracy, its very meaning remains contested. Based on a Habermasian-inspired deliberative account of democratic legitimacy, this paper makes the case for a new, cultural conceptualisation of deliberative systems: I argue that culture is not just an influence on deliberation, but it is first and foremost in a society’s political culture that deliberative democracy truly manifests itself, making cultural norms the very core and necessary driving force of so-called deliberative systems. As the manifestation in which democratisation is unsteered and bottom-up, only the realm of political culture has the potential to realise the emancipatory dimension of deliberative democracy that is central to its conception of legitimacy yet beyond the reach of purposive institutional design. Against the recent literature on deliberative systems, I draw on both political and anthropological conceptions of culture to develop an alternative systemic conceptualisation of deliberative democracy as a political culture.
Marit Hammond is Lecturer in Politics at Keele University. She is also a Co-Investigator at the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), a five-year ESRC-funded research project across seven universities and several outside partners led by the University of Surrey. Specialising in both political theory and environmental politics, her research interests include deliberative democracy, culture and democracy, sustainability governance, and green political theory. Recent work has appeared in Contemporary Political Theory,Democratization, Policy Sciences, Representation and Constellations.