Journal directory listing - Volume 69 (2024) - Journal of NTNU【69(1)】March

On Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson’s Theory of Deliberative Democracy Author: Kuan-Sheng Wang(Center for General Education National Taipei University Associate Professor)

Vol.&No.:Vol. 69, No. 1
Date:March 2024

This paper intends to explore American political philosophers Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson’s theory of deliberative democracy. The contemporary society is a value-pluralistic society where people hold different moral perspectives, religious beliefs, and worldviews. When confronted with controversies such as abortion, euthanasia, legalization of same-sex marriage, affirmative action, and other issues, citizens often experience profound and difficult-to-resolve underlying conflicts. Faced with these intricate controversies, Gutmann and Thompson argue that decision-making should not be based on majority rule but rather should seek consensus through a communicative deliberative process. This further contributes to enhancing the quality of decisionmaking and maintaining social stability. Gutmann and Thompson advocate using Rawls’s reflective equilibrium as the methodological foundation for deliberative democracy. In addition, they emphasize that deliberative democracy should adhere to principles of reciprocity, publicity, and the safeguarding of freedom and equality values. This aligns well with Rawls’s model of resolving
significant conflicts in multicultural societies through the theory of public reason. Therefore, Stephen Macedo contends that Gutmann and Thompson’s deliberative democratic theory is the extension and reformulation of Rawls’s theory of public reason, rather than a replacement. Samuel Freeman further refers to Gutmann and Thompson as “Rawlsian deliberative theorists.” In this paper, I will analyze the characteristics of the deliberative democracy theory of Gutmann and Thompson, as well as their relationship with Rawls’ theory of public reason. I agree that Gutmann and Thompson’s theory is an extension of Rawls’s theory. However, due to significant differences in their positions on questions such as “whether deliberative outcomes can be provisional agreements” and “whether political decisions can be determined by majority rule,” I do not consider Gutmann and Thompson’s theory directly equivalent to “Rawlsian deliberative theory.” In addition, due to the characteristics of Gutmann and Thompson’s theory, such as “the combination of procedural and substantive elements”,“emphasis on the civic virtue of compromise”, “respect for the fundamental values of a liberal democratic society”, “reinforcement of civic awareness”, and “emphasis on civic education”, they can systematically respond to challenges faced by deliberative democracy theories. They underscore that deliberative democracy contributes to safeguarding vulnerable groups, challenging political authority, seeking political consensus, and maintaining social stability. Furthermore, Gutmann and Thompson advocate that in the future, efforts should be made to extend the spirit of deliberative democracy to areas such as education, business, media, and others, aiming to promote social revitalization and innovation.

Keywords:public reason, Amy Gutmann, Dennis Thompson deliberative democracy, John Rawls.