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Citizens’ assemblies: A critical perspective

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stephen ElstubORCiD



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


There are a number of significant concerns about the democratic legitimacy of CAs. In this chapter we identify six of the most prominent critiques. Firstly, that members of the public do not have the capacity to engage in meaningful deliberation and decision-making. Secondly, that CAs do not contest power relationships in society. Thirdly, that they are excessively manipulated spaces, with participants having little control over their own agendas. Fourthly, that they are easily co-opted by public authorities and have little policymaking impact. Fifthly, they only include small numbers of participants, and therefore exclude most of the public from deliberation and decision-making. Sixthly, because they are representative, they do not do enough to promote the voice and interests of minorities and marginalized groups. While these problems are significant, we conclude by arguing that CAs can provide democratic value in the right circumstances

Publication metadata

Author(s): Elstub S, Khoban Z

Editor(s): Min Reuchamps, Julien Vrydagh and Yanina Welp

Series Editor(s): Stephen Elstub

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: De Gruyter Handbook of Citizens’ Assemblies

Year: 2023

Pages: 113-126

Print publication date: 19/06/2023

Online publication date: 31/05/2023

Acceptance date: 06/02/2023

Series Title: Citizens’ Assemblies and Mini-Publics

Publisher: De Gruyter

Place Published: Berlin


DOI: 10.1515/9783110758269-011

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9783110758153