Discourse and Democracy   /   Fall 2004   /    Articles

Deliberation in Democracy

Todd Gitlin

Democracy is a wager that reason, when exercised by multitudes or their rep- resentatives, however clumsily, however imperfectly, will succeed in eclipsing unreason, whether that unreason is exercised smoothly or bumpily by multitudes, oligarchies, or tyrants. The world’s first democracy on a scale larger than a city-state was rooted in Enlightenment principles. Democracy had classical origins, but it made a special place for meetings in the round—promising the equal standing of citizens and equal transparency in all directions. The premise was that the meeting of minds produced good judgment, or, at least, the least bad judgment.

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