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  • Disruption and Democracy:Challenges to Consensus and Communication
  • Jane M. Drexler (bio) and Michael Hames-Garcia (bio)

If you do things by consensus, it's not art.

— Joss Whedon

Iris Marion Young's Inclusion and Democracy is a welcome theorization of the possibilities for "deep democracy" in the context of ongoing, structurally unequal power relations.1 In revamping deliberative democratic theory, she attempts to replace the ideal of consensus with one of contestation, but to continue to theorize inclusion as a central goal for deep democracy. In this critique of Inclusion and Democracy, we have chosen to examine what might be missed by considering contestation through the lens of inclusion. As Young understands inclusion, it requires that political action privilege communication directed toward understanding. However, we argue that locating the political value of contestatory speech and action in relation to communication and inclusion can miss other possibilities that might open up spaces for democratic practice.

Young argues, with regard to styles of speech and speech presentation, that Habermas's model of deliberative democracy problematically privileges argument and that it assumes an exclusionary norm of orderliness and articulateness. In such a model of deliberative democracy, argument — the presentation of a logical chain of reasons leading to a logical conclusion — constitutes the legitimate form of discourse in the public sphere. Young, however, argues that privileging argument requires assuming shared premises and conceptual frameworks, "sometimes exclud[ing] the expression of some needs, interests, and suffering of injustice, because these cannot be voiced with the operative premises and frameworks" (37). Young further points out that to privilege argument entails privileging the particular and culturally specific norms of articulateness and dispassionateness (38). Styles of argument are dispassionate and orderly, and in that way, function with illocutionary force towards a noncoerced, rational consensus. Habermas juxtaposes illocutionary force, which involves the establishment of a relationship between speaker and listener through rational speech oriented towards understanding and agreement, to perlocutionary force, which seeks simply to bring about a desired end and in which speakers might therefore strategically manipulate listeners into agreement through the use of variegated, emotional, rhetorical forms of speech. Drawing this strict distinction, however, serves ideologically to mark the culturally specific, articulate, dispassionate, premise-to-conclusion style of argument as nonstrategic, uncoercive communication, while marking other speaking styles as manipulative and illegitimate for speech in the public sphere. Young argues that a political model of deep democracy should not draw this distinction; rather, it should valorize alternative forms of speech, particularly those originating from excluded social positions, as also being motivated by a desire for inclusion.

While Young describes political communication as struggle, as intervention, she retains her focus on inclusion and on communicative democracy. This is clear from her description of how rhetoric functions in political communication: it expands the topics/issues for debate, enables the entry of excluded groups and perspectives into a public arena so that they may be taken into account, and included in deliberation. Rhetoric situates participants in relation to each other, as they engage with each other in debate. The crucial importance of rhetoric, for Young, is that it enables and ensures democratic inclusion, specifically within the context of structural inequality and informal exclusion (50, 66-67). And as Young argues throughout Inclusion and Democracy, deepening democratic practice requires enabling and ensuring the inclusion in deliberation and decision-making of all groups and individuals who are affected or otherwise involved in a political issue. In attempting to explore the relationship between rhetoric, street demonstrations, and protest, on the one hand, and inclusive democracy on the other, Young argues that these oppositional styles are valuable to the extent that they adhere to a certain level of "reasonableness": "[With] the model of democratic process that I advocate here ... In democratic struggle citizens engage with others in the attempt to win their hearts and minds, that is, their assent. To do so, they should [End Page 56] be open and reasonable, and be prepared to challenge others through criticism and not merely the assertion of opposition" (51; emphasis added).

One of her primary critiques of theories of deliberative democracy is that they privilege a conception of reasonableness that invokes and imposes, among other...


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pp. 56-60
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