In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Deliberation

  • Introduction
  • Anthologies
  • Review Essays

Communication Deliberation
Michael A. Xenos
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 February 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0043


“Deliberative democracy” refers to democratic processes based on thorough consideration and discussion of issues from a variety of perspectives. Although voting and other ways of tallying opinions are often part of deliberation, it seeks to go beyond the mere aggregation of preferences through processes of collective discussion. Scholarly interest in deliberative democracy is highly interdisciplinary, with major strands of work found in political theory and philosophy, as well as in social scientific disciplines such as political science, social psychology, and sociology. With its focus on discussion and the exchange of reasoned arguments, however, it should be no surprise that deliberation has drawn significant attention from communication scholars, particularly those focused on political communication. These scholars regularly find insight in work on deliberation that originates in other fields and make their own contributions in return. Following broader scholarly interest in the topic, communication researchers have explored deliberation in a number of formats. These “modes” of deliberation include Deliberative Polls, deliberation among candidates and voters during campaigns, and deliberation in small groups, public forums, and town hall meetings, as well as informal deliberation that takes place in mass media, online, and in everyday political discussions among citizens. Within and across these modes, research on deliberative democracy typically addresses substantive questions surrounding the potential effects of deliberation on the quality of opinions held by its participants, and their likelihood of future political and civic engagement.


Anthologies on the topic of deliberation tend to mirror patterns in the broader deliberation literature in the sense that they are often a product of some combination of normative theoretical and empirical social scientific content. For example, Bohman and Rehg 1997 focuses on normative theory, while Delli Carpini et al. 2002 shows a strong emphasis on social scientific research. Others, however, such as Rosenberg 2007 and Chambers and Constain 2000, present a somewhat more vigorous and direct exchange between these two important drivers of scholarship on deliberation within a single volume. Gastil and Levine 2005 is a volume with a unique discussion of practical issues. Regardless of emphasis, anthologies in this literature often contain some of the most influential pieces of scholarship.

  • Bohman, James, and William Rehg, eds. 1997. Deliberative democracy: Essays on reason and politics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    This volume includes some of the most frequently cited theoretical essays on deliberative democracy. Foundational statements as well as more complicated arguments and debates within deliberative theory receive thorough treatment, with contributions from theorists such as Jon Elster, Jürgen Habermas, and Joshua Cohen.

  • Chambers, Simone, and Anne Costain, eds. 2000. Deliberation, democracy and the media. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

    This collection contains a variety of essays useful for understanding mediated deliberation in the public sphere. Essays cover general theoretical issues, as well as more specific topics dealing with the media and social movements. In addition to communications scholars, contributors include political scientists, rhetoricians, and legal scholars.

  • Delli Carpini, Michael X., Leonie Huddy, and Robert Y. Shapiro, eds. 2002. Research in micropolitics. Vol. 6, Political decision-making, deliberation and participation. New York: Elsevier.

    This rich collection of essays approaches deliberative democracy with a focus on issues related to political psychology. Traditional concepts and scholarship from the latter literature (e.g., information processing, group dynamics) are brought into conversation with key perspectives and issues associated with deliberation.

  • Gastil, John, and Peter Levine, eds. 2005. The deliberative democracy handbook: Strategies for effective civic engagement in the twenty-first century. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    This collection of essays provides a variety of practical insights, informed by decades of scholarship on democratic deliberation. Includes a “best practices” –oriented discussion of many different examples that range from familiar forms like Fishkin’s Deliberative Poll to less well-known designs from around the world.

  • Rosenberg, Shawn W., ed. 2007. Deliberation, participation and democracy: Can the people govern? New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    This volume is oriented toward conversation and cross-fertilization between theoretical scholarship on democratic deliberation and empirical research. Essays seek to identify key theoretical questions and address issues surrounding the operationalization of concepts from normative theory in empirical social scientific research.

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