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Theoretical Perspectives on Participation and Democracy

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  E XTERNAL R EPORT SCK  • CEN - ER  - 71   Theoretical Perspectives on Participation and Democracy Subtitle   Erik LAES Gaston MESKENS   ARGONA WP2 Intermediate Report Jan , 2008   SCK•CEN Boeretang 200 BE-2400 Mol Belgium  E XTERNAL R  EPORT OF THE B ELGIAN  N UCLEAR R  ESEARCH C ENTRE   SCK  • CEN - ER  - 71   Theoretical Perspectives on Participation and Democracy Subtitle   Erik LAES Gaston MESKENS   ARGONA WP2 Intermediate Report   Jan, 2008 Status: Unclassified   ISSN 1782-2335 SCK•CEN Boeretang 200 BE-2400 Mol Belgium    © SCK•CEN Studiecentrum voor Kernenergie Centre d’étude de l’énergie Nucléaire Boeretang 200 BE-2400 Mol Belgium Phone +32 14 33 21 11   Fax +32 14 31 50 21   http://www.sckcen.be Contact: Knowledge Centre library@sckcen.be RESTRICTED All property rights and copyright are reserved. Any communication or reproduction of this document, and any communication or use of its content without explicit authorization is prohibited. Any infringement to this rule is illegal and entitles to claim damages from the infringer, without prejudice to any other right in case of granting a patent or registration in the field of intellectual property. SCK•CEN, Studiecentrum voor Kernenergie/Centre d'Etude de l'Energie Nucléaire Stichting van Openbaar Nut – Fondation d'Utilité Publique - Foundation of Public Utility Registered Office: Avenue Herrmann Debroux 40 – BE-1160 BRUSSEL Operational Office: Boeretang 200 – BE-2400 MOL  Theoretical perspectives on participation and democracy in RW Governance FP6 ARGONA Work Package 2 January 2008 4 ARGONA WP 2 Theoretical perspectives on participation and democracy Intermediate Report – part 1 January 2008 Erik Laes Gaston Meskens Table of contents 0 Introduction........................................................................................................................................................5 0.1 WP 2 rationale.........................................................................................................................................5 0.2 The potential added value of combining ethical/normative and functional/analytic approaches.......11 0.3 Structure of the report...........................................................................................................................13 1 Approaching the work of Jürgen Habermas....................................................................................................14 1.1 The 'basics': speech acts, discourse, communicative and instrumental rationality..............................14 1.2 The ethics of discourse and the ideal speech situation.........................................................................16 1.3 Habermas's theory of society................................................................................................................18 1.4 Habermas's theory of law, democracy and politics..............................................................................20 1.4.1 The primacy of the law.....................................................................................................................20 1.4.2 Deliberative democracy 'in practice'................................................................................................22 1.5 Summary and conclusions.....................................................................................................................26 2 Habermas – A critical assessment...................................................................................................................27 2.1 Introduction...........................................................................................................................................27 2.2 Recognising asymmetries of interaction...............................................................................................28 2.3 On the ambiguity of the ideal speech situation.....................................................................................31 2.4 Particularism and universalism.............................................................................................................34 2.5 On perplexity.........................................................................................................................................35 2.6 Commitment and appraisal...................................................................................................................38 2.7 On cognitive, motivational and organisational overburdening of society...........................................41 2.8 Summary and conclusions.....................................................................................................................44  Theoretical perspectives on participation and democracy in RW Governance FP6 ARGONA Work Package 2 January 2008 5   1   Introduction 1.1   WP 2 rationale Work Package 2 (WP 2) of the ARGONA project examines how democratic societies handle risk governance – i.e. the ensemble of rules, procedures and practices affecting how powers are exercised with respect to the control of potential adverse consequences to human health or the environment – with an emphasis on the possibilities and limits of public participation 1 . WP 2 seeks to offer the intellectual tools to describe , explain ,  compare  and possibly improve  the way risks are handled by democratic states 2 . It also sets out to show how some 'overarching' theories of risk governance need to be modified or supplemented. We will mainly draw upon two traditions in governance studies: one rooted in normative political philosophy (i.e. theories which seek to set out the conditions for 'good governance' mainly based on the ideal of 'deliberative democracy'), the other rooted in social-cybernetic systems theories (i.e. theories that draw upon a 'systems vocabulary' – autopoiesis, feedback loops, the system/environment duality, etc. – to analyse and discuss the form, functioning and overall character of social interactions). To a large extent, WP 2 builds on knowledge gained in the RISCOM - II project, and the conditions for the implementation of the RISCOM model are further investigated. However, the framework is broadened to include research about how the so-called 'transparency approach' and the 'deliberative approach' can be combined and how they can be linked to the functioning of the political system in which decisions (for example on the final disposal of nuclear waste) are ultimately taken. Indeed, it can be said that the RISCOM - II project pointed out the existence of a close relationship between transparency and public participation, but did not yet achieve enough conceptual clarity on the possible interplay between these overarching ideas. Hence, WP 2 will analyse the differences between the two approaches and clarify the links between them. A vast range of political science writing is of general relevance to these themes, so perhaps our choice to focus on the above-mentioned theoretical perspectives needs to be justified a bit further. Our interest in deliberative democracy stems from a quite striking evolution. Members of academia, self-employed consultants, business managers and public servants alike appear to have accepted the idea that the answer to a number of wide-ranging contemporary  problems (e.g. the 'great divide' between experts and laymen or political representatives and citizens; sweeping economic and technical changes with associated problems of social exclusion, etc.) lies in a greater degree of 'involvement' or 'participation' of the people most affected by these dynamics. In the context of radioactive waste management (RWM), there has been a noticeable change over the past decade in governance practice. Formerly the area was characterised by severe and sometimes violent polarisation between actors, typically in the context of top-down attempts to site a management facility in a (more or less) unwilling host community. By now, in many Western countries one can observe the emergence of innovative programs of co-operation among stakeholders, ranging from organised dialogue to 1  We use the term 'governance' rather than 'government', since the former notion is not limited to the specific formal functions of government and the political system; but it also includes the informal organisation and regulation of collective affairs that is often taken for granted in society. 'Governance' therefore recognises the strong influence both formal and informal networks have on forging shared beliefs, allocating rights and obligations among parties, legitimating initiatives taken by policy and promulgating collective interests. 2  Most examples of risk governance practices will be drawn from the field of radioactive waste management (RWM), allthough the conceptual thinking developed in WP 2 (and the overall ARGONA project) applies equally to other risk fields.
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