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Deliberative Democracy for a Great Society

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ian O'FlynnORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


According to Albert Weale, as long as the parties to a social contract have equal bargaining power, the agreement that they make will incorporate principles of democratic justice. However, as I argue, deciding what counts as equal bargaining power requires the parties to display, in the first instance, a prior commitment to deliberation. That is, it requires them to see things as others see them and to weigh their reasons equally in the balance with their own. Weale is sceptical about the prospects for deliberation in great modern societies; there are simply far too many of us to deliberate together. Hence, he thinks that fairness and equality are better understood as matters of convention. However, this not only overlooks the possibilities for thinking about deliberation in more systemic terms, it also overlooks the fact that sometimes a society can only be truly great by breaking with convention.

Publication metadata

Author(s): O'Flynn I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Political Studies Review

Year: 2015

Volume: 13

Issue: 2

Pages: 207–216

Print publication date: 01/05/2015

Online publication date: 09/04/2015

Acceptance date: 08/01/2015

Date deposited: 08/01/2015

ISSN (print): 1478-9299

ISSN (electronic): 1478-9302

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/1478-9302.12086


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