Events Calendar Header

Dates and Times

09 May 2023
11:00 - 12:30


Building: 24
Room: Fishbowl


Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance


John Dryzek

CDDGG Seminar Series - John Dryzek

Deliberative Democracy for Diabolical Times

Democracy’s seemingly inexorable advance in the 1990s and 2000s induced many observers to forget that most states and empires throughout history have been inhospitable to democracy. What’s new about our bad times for democracy is that they implicate novel forms of public and political communication in a diabolical soundscape. Minimal standards of truth and integrity are routinely violated by successful elected leaders. Print, radio, and television operations can prosper by enraging niche audiences, moving them to extremes and acting as enablers of demagogues. It is easier than ever before for large numbers of people to express themselves politically, especially on social media, controlled by massive corporations with limited interest in the pathological aspects of the political space that they have inadvertently created. Authoritarian governments manipulate and exploit this space to foster division, sow chaos, bolster extremist candidates, and destabilise liberal democratic states. An overload of political expression makes it increasingly hard for citizens and policymakers alike to detect meaningful signals amidst the lies, noise, and disinformation.

As a communication-centric approach, deliberative democracy ought to have plenty to say in response. Given the chance, citizens and publics can indeed avoid manipulation and polarization, reach well-reasoned positions, and join public discourse in deliberative systems that also involve the media, leaders, and activists. Here, a capacity to rethink democracy can begin (though not end) with the deliberative dispositions and practices that all societies already possess to some degree. The dispositions might include the openness that many people already have toward deliberative ideals such as listening carefully to the other side. The practices might include informal networks of political conversations; bridging rhetoric; constructive framing; integrative performances by political leaders; dialogical connections between citizens and politicians; deliberation in social movements and protests; and traditions of holding leaders to account. Innovations might then include crowdsourced judgments and citizen participation to inform algorithms, reflective deliberative spaces online and offline (including mini-publics), and listening practices in social movements. One way of thinking about all this is that it pits the entire contemporary program of deliberative democracy against diabolical developments. Alternatively, specific aspects of the soundscape can be targeted with more precise deliberative responses.

This seminar will be chaired by Dr Adele Webb.

About the speaker

John Dryzek was an ARC Laureate Fellow (2014-2020) and Professor at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra.

Additional Information

Online -

In person - Building 24, Fishbowl

Other quick links