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Journal Article

Symposium: James S. Fishkin, Democracy When the People Are Thinking


James Fishkin's Democracy When the People Are Thinking (2018) is a comprehensive account of why Deliberative Polling is now the gold standard for a type of deliberative mini-public. Fishkin's book is nicely theorized, and counts as a major contribution to the empirical study of democratic innovations. The book does, however, leave a number of questions open that we need to frame and answer as we look forward to using innovative processes such as Deliberative Polling to deepen democracy. These include questions of (1) the democratic legitimacy of randomly selected bodies; (2) the boundaries of relevant publics, particularly when they do not correspond to established jurisdictions; (3) managing legitimate exclusions of special interests that are powerful enough to undermine deliberative mini-publics; (4) when and why political elites might have incentives to use deliberative mini-publics; (5) when and where divisions of labor among venues and activities deepen democracy, and (6) locating democratic possibilities outside of electoral democracy, particularly within governance systems.

Mark E. Warren
Journal Name
The Good Society
Publication Date
Penn State University Press