Emancipation or accommodation?
Habermasian vs. Rawlsian deliberative democracy
Christian F. Rostbøll
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
The development of the theory of deliberative democracy has culminated in a synthesis between Rawlsian political liberalism and Habermasian critical theory. Taking the perspective of conceptions of freedom, this article argues that this synthesis is unfortunate and obscures some important differences between the two traditions. In particular, the idea of internal autonomy, which was an important, implicit idea in the ideology critique of the earlier Habermas, falls out of view. There is no room for this dimension of freedom in political liberalism and it has largely disappeared from the later Habermas. In so far as others have followed Rawls and Habermas, deliberative democratic theory has converged around a less critical and more accommodationist view of freedom. If we want to keep deliberative democracy as a critical theory of contemporary society, we should resist this convergence. Our starting point should not be `the fact of reasonable pluralism' but rather `the fact of unreflective acquiescence'. This article argues for incorporating internal autonomy in a complex theory of freedom to which deliberative democracy should be normatively committed.
Key Words: autonomy • deliberative democracy • freedom • Jürgen Habermas • ideology critique • John Rawls