Deliberative Cultures

Publication Date: 
February 2014
Political Theory, February 2014, vol. 42 no. 1 3-25
John S. Dryzek

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Increasing interest in applying the theory and practice of deliberative democracy to new and varied political contexts leads us to ask whether or not deliberation is a universal political practice. While deliberation does manifest a universal competence, its character varies substantially across time and space, a variation partially explicable in cultural terms. We deploy an intersubjective conception of culture in order to explore these differences. Culture meets deliberation where publicly accessible meanings, symbols, and norms shape the way political actors engage one another in discourse. Fuller understanding of political deliberation requires comparative and historical studies of particular contexts. We look at one case from Egypt in some depth and provide shorter illustrations from Botswana, Europe, India, Japan, Madagascar, the United States, Yemen, and elsewhere. Cross-cultural learning can enrich the theory of deliberative democracy, and give democratic theory a more universal reach.