Animal Rights and the Deliberative turn in Democratic Theory
journal contributionposted on 21.07.2016, 10:59 by Robert W. Garner
Deliberative democracy has been castigated by those who regard it as exclusive and elitist because of its failure to take into account a range of structural inequalities existing within contemporary liberal democracies. As a result, it is suggested, deliberative arenas will merely reproduce these inequalities, advantaging the already powerful extolling mainstream worldviews excluding the interests of the less powerful and those expounding alternative worldviews. Moreover, the tactics employed by those excluded social movements seeking to right an injustice are typically those – involving various forms of protest and direct action – which are incompatible with the key characteristics of deliberatively democracy. This paper seeks to examine the case against deliberative democracy through the prism of animal rights. It will be argued that the critique of deliberative democracy, at least in the case of animal rights, is largely misplaced because it underestimates the rationalistic basis of animal rights philosophy, misunderstands the aspirational character of deliberative theory and mistakenly attributes problems that are not restricted to deliberation but result from interest group politics in general. It is further argued that this debate about the apparent incompatibility between the ideals of deliberative democracy and non-deliberative activism disguises the potential that deliberative democracy has for advocates of animal rights and, by extension, other social movements too.