The Downside of Partecipatory-Deliberative Governance
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This paper provides an empirically-grounded critique of what we refer to as "participatory-deliberative governance" (PDG) theory, and, drawing on Habermas' social theory, articulates an alternative to it. The critique of PDG is based on an in-depth study of three participatory fora in South Africa: the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), the Child Labour Intersectoral Group (CLIG), and the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC). The paper argues that coordination through deliberation is unlikely to occur in formal settings (where discourses are mostly about the accommodation of existing interests) and is more likely to be found in the informal public sphere, where the preferences of citizens are still malleable, and it is possible for civil society groups to build communicative power by articulating moral arguments that motivate and mobilize the public. This form of power can then be expended by civil society groups to counterbalance other forms of (non-communicative) power impinging on the formal decision-making sphere.