This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Creating Democracy is Complex

This post is likely going to be complex for most as it is for me, but hopefully I can at least move from incoherent complexity to more coherent complexity. This blog has discussed deliberative democracy, systems thinking and even complexity before. This time though it is the means of combined analysis and synthesis through a Kumu mapping, which could be considered approximating 3-D like mapping with multiple positive and negative influences creating feedback loops at differing levels and degrees, that is the source of the complexity.    

The Kumu mapping project is designed to supplement the scholarly article Deliberation, Democracy and the Systemic Turn co-authored by David Owen and Graham Smith, uploaded to, which is a critique of another article on democratic deliberation known also as the 'Manifesto'.

Deliberative democracy as a theoretical enterprise has gone through a series of phases or ‘turns’. The most recent manifestation of this dynamic is the idea of the ‘deliberative system’, of which a variety of formulations have been proposed. An important initial attempt to offer a reflective synthesis of work on deliberative systems is the recent essay, ‘A systemic approach to deliberative democracy’.  - article Abstract

The Kumu map project works on two levels. First, as illustrations of concepts found on specific pages of the Owen and Smith article. Second, through larger scale maps organizing aggregated concepts found throughout the article based on the premise that if one is truly dealing with a system then it should be possible to map it.

This Next Level maps out the 'territory' of 'deliberative systems' considered by the article. This process of overall mapping began at the conclusion of the article, as the last destination or where X marks the spot on the map, and built backwards producing three separate maps, Deliberative Systems (DS), Institutional Democratic Theory, and Integrated Deliberative Systems (IDS), each taking a different perspective of the conceptual territory under consideration. Each map can be considered separately but provides more in depth insights when considered together.

Each map is made up of various elements, some of which are common across maps, that are related to each other by four color coded types of connections: choices, alternatives, possibilities or aspects, components, factors or influence, defines, impacts or limits, diminishes, constrains. 

The elements and connections of the Deliberative Systems map lie on a 2-D plane, delineated by the ideals of 'Citizens at the Heart' on one axis and 'Political Ideals" on the other. Similarly designed, the map Institutional Democratic Theory has a common axis with 'Citizens at the Heart" but lies on a different plane with 'Produces Desired Goods and Necessary Functions' as the secondary axis.

Each map considers the relation of concepts which either enhance or limit attaining the relevant optimal axes. Those elements common to both maps relate differently to the overall plane then depending upon which map they are considered. 

 'Citizens at the Heart' both independently and as a component of 'Political Ideal' can readily be seen as attaining the highest level of a 'deliberative democratic ideal'. In contrast, Institutional Democratic Theory, which still has Citizens at the Heart as one of its optimal goals, does not necessarily Produce Desired Goods and Necessary Functions even under the most ideal deliberative circumstances and more often results in conflict between the two goals.

The existence of potential and likely conflicts between the ideal of "Citizens at the Heart" and the realities of "Produces Desired Goods and Necessary Functions' on the plane of Institutional Democratic Theory has to then be considered against the separate plane of the map Deliberative Systems which has its owns negative and non-deliberative influences indicating that attaining what could be considered a 'deliberative democratic ideal' in the real world a tremendous challenge.

The third map Integrated Deliberative Systems takes some of the elements from these two previous maps and places them in an expanded context moving across from the 'unruly politics of social life' to a 'decision-making body' with potential feedback loops at every level.  The map has four levels of integration 1) No to little deliberation between citizens takes place, 2) Deliberation not empowered in respect of decision-making, 3) Civic deliberation and 4) Decision making power.

The core justification of deliberative democracy, according to the article is, as a political ideal, legitimizing our collective political arrangements (institutions, laws, policies) based  on deliberative practices amongst free and equal citizens.

The Manifesto, being reviewed, treats mutual respect as part of the ‘ethical’ criteria for judging a deliberative system.

“We stress mutual respect, however, because even more than other ethical considerations, it is intrinsically a part of deliberation. To deliberate with another is to understand the other as a self-authoring source of reasons and claims. To fail to grant to another the moral status of authorship is, in effect, to remove oneself from the possibility of deliberative influence.”  (page 25).

The map reflects the concept mutual respect’s differences in relationships between the DS and IDT maps, either directly or in display. This concept expanded three degrees under Mutual Respect Challenged demonstrates the complex array of interrelationships.

The article goes on to suggest that any account of mutual respect compatibility with radical populist rhetoric such as the Tea Party is likely to be negligible. Raising the possibility then that without a ‘deliberative minimum’ and with ‘mutual respect’ considered only at the systemic level, one system might display greater overall mutual respect than another while still exhibiting a greater lack of respect toward a specific group. Such a systemic approach tries to maximize the overall level of mutual respect within the system through active disrespect of certain groups within the polity, usually the most vulnerable.

Similarly, the article looks toThe plurality of perspectives, claims, narratives, and reasons that characterise a political society", going on to say, "cannot however plausibly be construed as independent of the social and political institutions and practices of that society.” (page 14), which is true but from a deeper systems thinking perspective, not taken by the article, corresponds to the deepest levels of the systems thinking iceberg as well as the most effective interventions of Donella Meadows' Leverage Points. Kumu relates this concept across all three maps.

Parkinson, one of the authors of the Manifesto, reflected that it ‘would be ironic indeed’ if we could imagine a deliberative system in which public participation were generally passive.  (page 26)

It is important then to distinguish, according to the article's authors, between democratic deliberation and the broader discursive system, which could under certain circumstances can be seen as the ‘scaffolding’ or ‘support’ for deliberation. How a democratic deliberative system could support a discursive system, however, is not examined. Also, the connections could just as easily go the other way with a broader discursive system becoming merely another set of tables from which to exclude others.

Manifesto author, Mansbridge’s concept of 'everyday talk' loosens the criteria for deliberation to encompass a broad range of talk.  A more restricted type of everyday talk might, as cited by the article's authors, still be considered deliberation, as in forms of political talk involving what is termed a ‘deliberative stance’, also reflected across all three maps and defined as, "a relation to others as equals engaged in the mutual exchange of reasons oriented as if to reaching a shared practical judgment." (page 28)

While particular settings for a deliberative stance whether, formal or informal, decision-making or not, are not restricted, the demands on individuals will change contingent  upon the standards structuring the context of discursive interaction and the extent to which such standards are entrenched within the community's institutions. Citizens have to have the capacity and disposition to take up a deliberative stance, whether for actual formal decisions or issues more subject to public consideration. 

The question is whether this recent systemic turn overlooks, by necessity,  commitments as  expressed through Mansbridge’s 'everyday talk' to ensure ‘a democratic theory that puts the citizen at the center’. This moves once again into the Integrated Deliberative Systems map raising  the relation between deliberation and the broader political system with a model of an ‘integrated deliberative system’ as sketched by author Carolyn Hendriks.

Hendriks privileges the connections between formal ‘discursive spheres’ such as ‘parliaments, committee meetings, party rooms, stakeholder round tables, expect committees, community fora, public seminars, church events and so on’. (page 31) The article's authors endeavor to broaden the approach to encompass the deliberative stance in everyday settings, which can be critical to both how perspectives are generated and how capacities are developed.

The overall Kumu map project is still under development, particularly the direction of many of the connections, and relationships remain subject to interpretation and revision but a few run throughs of different possible pathways should still provide not only a better understanding of the article but perhaps insights that go beyond the article.

Past Posts