Systemic impartiality and the role of political parties

Stream: Panel 57 - Human Rights & Democracy: Deliberative Democracy
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm


Deliberative democracy has a love-and-hate relationship with the concept of impartiality. Initially, deliberation was defined by the exchange of public reasons—reasons that all can accept (Gutmann and Thompson 1998) and the appeal to the common good (Elster 1986). Later, the impetus of making deliberation more inclusive (Young 1990) pushed towards a gradual but firm acceptance of self-interested views and reasons (Mansbridge et al. 2010). In this paper we examine the place of impartiality inside deliberative systems. We first develop a normative case for impartiality, drawing on Miranda Fricker’s concept of testimonial injustice. We argue that testimonial justice requires a special type of epistemic impartiality understood as giving one the benefit of the doubt (section 1). We argue that inside the deliberative system there is a clear place for both partiality and impartiality, and that impartiality should be achieved at the systemic level (section 2). We then turn to the role of political parties inside the deliberative system. We propose that political parties should be seen as transmission belts communicating the demands of the public space to the empowered one. As such political party advocate narrow, self-interested views as they are endorsed by any given community of citizens (section 3). The advantage of our account is that it can be accommodated with testimonial justice. In the last section we discuss how impartiality should be conceived and realized at the systemic level. In doing so we emphasize the problem of conceiving systemic impartiality in purely procedural terms (section 4).


Ana Tanasoca (Presenter), University of Canberra
Ana Tanasoca joined the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance in 2015 as a postdoctoral research fellow working with Professor Dryzek on his Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship project Deliberative Worlds: Democracy, Justice and a Changing Earth System. She completed her PhD in normative political theory at the University of Essex (Government department) in 2015 with a thesis on the ethics of multiple citizenship.

John S. Dryzek, University of Canberra
John Dryzek is Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Centenary Professor in the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis. Before moving to the University of Canberra he was Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Australian Research Council Federation Fellow at the Australian National University. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, former Head of the Departments of Political Science at the Universities of Oregon and Melbourne and of the Social and Political Theory program at ANU, and former editor of the Australian Journal of Political Science.