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Policy Paradox and Argumentative Turn as Challenges to Deliberative Policy Planning



The theory of deliberation emerged as an effect of a theoretical attempt at solving the democratic deficit, hence situating itself within the "classical" boundaries of political theory. It does not, however, often relate to the theory of public policy, especially its most critical strains. In this paper I make an attempt at such a conflation, juxtaposing the "policy paradox" and the "argumentative turn" with the ideal(ized) models of deliberation, both type I and type II. Recalling the debate on public policy that started in the 80s/90s-right when the theory of deliberation was also taking off-I ask the question whether deliberation, as its most prominent proponents claim, is the answer to the political challenge of public policies, or should rather be equally treated according to the logic outlined by policy paradox and argumentative turn? In my argumentation I lean towards the second option, proposing instead a post-foundationalist and hermeneutic interpretation of political/policy fields in which deliberation occur. This leads to a substantial shift in the understanding of its potential effects and means.
Wojciech Ufel
SWPS Univeristy
ORCID: 0000-0002-7762-6349
Policy Paradox and Argumentative
Turn as Challenges to Deliberative
Policy Planning
Abstract: e theory of deliberation emerged as an effect of a theoretical at-
tempt at solving the democratic deficit, hence situating itself within the “classical”
boundaries of political theory. It does not, however, often relate to the theory of
public policy, especially its most critical strains. In this paper Imake an attempt
at such aconflation, juxtaposing the “policy paradox” and the “argumentative
turn” with the ideal(ized) models of deliberation, both type Iand type II. Recalling
the debate on public policy that started in the s/s– right when the theory
of deliberation was also taking off– Iask the question whether deliberation, as
its most prominent proponents claim, is the answer to the political challenge of
public policies, or should rather be equally treated according to the logic outlined
by policy paradox and argumentative turn? In my argumentation Ilean towards
the second option, proposing instead apost-foundationalist and hermeneutic
interpretation of political/policy fields in which deliberation occur. is leads to
asubstantial shift in the understanding of its potential effects and means.
Keywords: theory of democracy, public policy, policy paradox, argumentative
turn, deliberative democracy
¹ e preparation of this article results from my work conducted at the intersection
of numerous research projects, including the National Centre of Science grants
No //T/HS/ (ETIUDA) and No //B/HS/ (OPUS), as well
as from the European Union’s Horizon  research and innovation programme
under grant agreement No .
Wojciech Ufel Wojciech Ufel
e theories of deliberative democracy and public policy emerge from
different branches of political science and political philosophy, yet they
share acommon root in abelief of apossible extraction of the decision-
making process from the burden of conflict and coercion of politics, or
in other words “the political”. Public policy, at least in its mainstream
strain dominated by the decisionist approach, relegates the policy analysis
process to presumably non-political (and hence unbiased) experts. By
basing the political decisions on knowledge, evidence and their scien-
tific analysis, public policy promises optimized decisions, benefitting
the stakeholders, as well as politicians, who can be perceived as effective
(Bromell, , pp. –). is concept persisted through the consecutive
iterations, or trends, within the theory of public policy, such as the New
Public Management that dominated the field alongside the hegemony of
atcherite/Reaganist neoliberalism (McLaughlin, Osborne, Ferlie, ),
“good governance” through Public-Private Partnerships (Sabry, ), or
triple/quadruple/quintuple helix models for innovations (Carayannis,
Campbell, ).
Deliberation, on the other hand, rises from the political and theoreti-
cal discussions on the democratic deficit in liberal, capitalist societies of
the post-War era. e claim is to bring democracy closer to “the people”,
i.e. to by-pass the alienated elites with their particular, political goals,
partisan bias, focus on PR and positive image in media, and susceptibil-
ity to corporate lobbying. Instead of relegating most important policy
decisions to experts, deliberative democrats would rather refer to public
reason and common knowledge, provided the appropriate process of its
creation. Aconsensus based on in-depth, rational argumentation is said
to be similarly non-political and unbiased, as evidence-based expertise
of the decisionist public policy. Despite the fact that the theory itself has
undergone numerous transformation towards more pragmatic types and
generations (Bachtiger, Niemeyer, Neblo, Steenbergen, Steiner, ; El-
stub, Ercan, Mendonça, ), loosening core idealistic assumptions of
Policy Paradox and Argumentative Turn…
consensus or purely rational mode of speaking did not weaken the belief
in providing conditions to avoid “the political”. Rather, those discussions
aimed at defending the “apolitical” status of deliberation, given the non-
ideal conditions under which deliberation appears.
Despite both theories being primarily concerned with different goals
one aims at effective policy-making, the other one at the democratic
dimension of this process– they both share an aversion for “the politi-
cal”. It is not at all surprising. In fact, the search for the “apoliticalness”
is acrucial concept for all modern theories of rational politics since the
era of enlightenment, therefore they come as anatural extension– the
answer to challenges– of arepresentative model of liberal democracy,
which has been broadly implemented in the Western political systems
after the World War II. is modernist, analytical approach has also been
subjected to acareful and comprehensive analysis and exposition, first by
hermeneutics and (nomen omen) critical theory of the Frankfurt School,
and afterwards by poststructuralists, feminists, postmodernists etc. e
theory of deliberative democracy, popularized and developed prominently
by Jürgen Habermas, from its very beginning attempted at reconciliation
of this criticism and the premises of the enlightenment and modernity
(Habermas, ). erefore, aprofound criticism and debate never fully
occurred within the field of deliberation, but rather took place outside of
it, especially from radical democrats such as Chantal Mouffe (), or
later generations of the critical school (Jaeggi, ). For public policy,
however, the situation is different: in the late s through mid-s– right
when the theory of deliberation was also taking off– an interesting debate
on its foundational character ensued and ever since occasionally comes
back. is family of arguments, to which Irefer to as “policy paradox” and
afollowing “argumentative turn”, disclose policy analysis– and every other
activity connected to policy-making– as inherently political, therefore
biased and persuasive in away that is more coercive than would follow
from apurely rational argumentation.
In the following essay Iaim at answering the following questions: How
these debates relate to the core ideas of deliberation and what challenges
Wojciech Ufel
to its successful implementation they disclose? e argumentative turn
intersects with the theory of deliberation at many points, and deliberative
democrats even add to these debates under alabel of “deliberative policy
analysis”. John Dryzek, one of the main representatives of the delibera-
tive mainstream in the theory of democracy, is the author of achapter in
the most important works that make up the argumentative turn (Fischer,
Forester, ) and, co-authored with Carolyne Hendriks, (Fischer, Gott-
weis, ). However, in his most important publications on delibera-
tion, he does not invoke the argumentative turn. In fact, the relationships
between the theory of deliberation and the argumentative turn appear
rather scarce. It cannot be found in the writings of other mainstream
deliberation theorists, even the ones most critical of the argumentative
process, such as Iris Marion Young and Jane Mansbridge. Deliberative
democrats, even if they refer to the argumentative turn, they rather point
to the common Habermasian sources of these trends (Floridia, ).
But the argumentative turn– as will be presented in this paper– draws
from many other philosophical sources, not necessarily compatible with
each other. Isuggest that the argumentative turn in fact consists of two
separate strains, interpretative and deliberative, which provide different
answers to the common question of how to integrate politics (as in “the
political”) and policy-making. Adirect comparison of tensions existing
between these two strains reveals certain lacks, omissions and misjudg-
ments of the deliberative theory.
Paradoxes of decisionism
e decisionist paradigm aimed at importing the rationalist econom-
etry, an optic that treats political and social problems in apredominantly
utilitarian way, to the field of public policy. It created asystem of govern-
ance based on asimplified, narrow process with three steps: informa-
tion– analysis– decision. Policy issues are narrowed down to factors
that can be parameterized and later evaluated using mathematical and
Policy Paradox and Argumentative Turn…
logical indicators. As Giandomenico Majone– one of the first critics of
this approach– argued in his  book, the process of gathering and ana-
lyzing data is much more complex, ambiguous and nonlinear. Moreover,
preparing and communicating its results in amanner that proves effec-
tive for policy analyst consists mostly of persuading those responsible for
adecision making (the political class), and those holding them accountable
(the democratic public). In such circumstances, the process is situated in
an argument-based discussion:
in the system of governing through discussion, analysis– even profes-
sional– is less based on formal methods of problem solving and more on
the argument process […] the arguments put forward by analysts, if they
are to be taken seriously in public debate forums, must be convincing.
erefore, all technical language problems, including rhetorical problems,
will always concern analysts. (Majone, , p. )²
is does resemble, to some extent, Michele Foucault’s discussion on the
political origin of knowledge, as in the inseparable complex of power/
knowledge (Foucault, ). For the French philosopher, knowledge (and its
institutions) is amechanism of power, the area where it is exerted and,
more importantly, where it reproduces itself. erefore no knowledge
can be independent of power or political relations, even if the connection
between the politician and expert is not adirect relation of subordinance.
e abovementioned claim of Majone adds another layer to this criticism,
i.e. it stresses that the position of policy expert relies more on persuasion
and communicative skills than on actual scientific knowledge and analysis.
Of course, sound and precise research provides for more accurate solutions,
but the ultimate success lies in convincing and motivating certain public
policy recipients (Majone, , pp. –). In the end, the decision is
² Due to the difficulties in access to Giandomenico Majone’s Evidence, Argument,
& Persuasion in the Policy Process, all quotations from this book are translations
from the Polish edition of this book.
Wojciech Ufel
made because of the power of persuasion in the process of formulating the
information and giving evidence of its validity. As Deborah Stone (,
pp. –) writes, in public policy the dispute is most often not just
about dry facts, but rather their interpretations and the value attributed
to them: the analysis has “apoint of view, as it includes and excludes some
things, gives or suggests value to certain facts, and basically does not re-
main objective and unbiased. In fact, analyst themselves have atendency
to become “inherently biased in their assessment of their proposals and
more likely to be skeptical of any evidence of possible adverse effects than
aless involved person” (Majone, , p. ).
Stone is the one who coined the term “policy paradox”. In the opening
words to her book on this concept, first published in , she underlines that
“politicians always have at least two goals. First is apolicy goal– whatever
program or proposal they would like to see accomplished or defeated, what-
ever problem they would like to see solved. Perhaps even more important,
though, is apolitical goal. Politicians always want to preserve their power,
or gain enough power to be able to accomplish their policy goals. Achieving
apolicy goal can sometimes whwart political gains– or vice versa” (,
p. ). e political goal narrows down to the assurance that after making
all policy decisions, their systemic position and public support will allow
them to at least hold their political post, or advance their career in another
direction, either through elections or within the structure of their political
organizations. is approach, based on the “universally understood condi-
tions of political rivalry” (Stone, , p. ), is also transferred on the level
of policy analysis. ose two inseparable goals often lead to the inevitable
conflict of two normative orders, e.g. the economic growth, protection of
the environment, or health and wellbeing of citizens vs the expectations
of the electorate based on fear or resentment, interests of sponsors of politi-
cal campaigns, or personal politics of the political party. Hence, the paradox
of the policy analysis, which is situated at the cross of these conflicting orders,
and therefore cannot be treated as devoid of “the political” one.
Stone (, pp. –) builds on Majone’s argumentation and develops
the argument in numerous directions, including the concepts of human
Policy Paradox and Argumentative Turn…
nature (altruism and egoism, individualism and community approach) and
social change (cooperation, public interest, the perspective of discourse
and social groups) to depict different dimensions in which the simplified,
decisionist approach is not sufficient to explain and project effective and
democratic policy-making process. However, for the sake of the argument
with deliberative democrats, Iwould like to emphasize two points she is
making: that the influence is always associated with persuasion, and the
clear demarcation of it from coercion is always questionable; and that
information is not, in principle, objective, but rather always incomplete,
interpretable, and used strategically.
It is in this place where the first challenge to deliberative theory is
posed, especially considering its most prevalent systemic approach, in
which deliberative and non-deliberative elements coexist together in away
that democratizes the whole system. e absence of coercion is to be one
of the key factors considered when assessing the deliberative component of
proposed solutions. e systemic turn refers to “the intuition that being
pressured into doing something and being persuaded into it are different.
Deliberation is about genuine persuasion, not pressure. Afull systemic
theory of deliberation would require an elaborated defense of where to
draw the line between pressure and persuasion” (Mansbridge, Bohman,
Chambers, Christiano, Fung, Parkinson, ompson, Warren, , p. ).
An argument put forward by Majone and Stone suggests that this task is
rather impossible to achieve. is notion has, in fact, troubled deliberative
democrats since the early formulations of its type II (i.e. non-idealistic)
models. Young (, pp. –) emphasizes the role of rhetoric, greet-
ings, the use of narratives and emotional speech, but only as long as they
foster the communication based on rational argumentation. Dryzek and
Simone Chambers (Chambers, , pp. –; Dryzek, Niemeyer,
, pp. –) also recognize apotentially inclusive value of rhetoric,
but only if it adheres to certain normative standards, such as representing
morally justifiable values, being responsible for other interlocutors and
the community outside of the deliberating mini-public, or only when the
speakers yield undeniable trust and moral authority.
Wojciech Ufel
e extent to which those most eminent scholars of deliberation defend
rhetoric and persuasion shows how important it is for deliberation to
avoid its coercive use, which under the policy paradox arguments seems
inevitable. Stone (, p. ) expresses this writing about the “two” faces
of persuasion; one associated with enlightenment and the other with
Persuasion as atool of public policy has often been viewed either as aneu-
tral instrument of science and the market or as adangerous weapon of
totalitarian governments. e ideal types obscure the nature of influence
[…]. Shaping information is an inevitable part of communication and an
integral part of strategic behavior.
Stone therefore argues that persuasion cannot be treated in isolation from
its manipulative or coercive component. Any attempt to draw asharp line
between desirable and non-desirable persuasion serves to justify an ideal
model that does not fit the practice of political communication. In case
of deliberation, it aims at preserving its radically democratic legitimiza-
tion that arises from the intersubjective rational agreement on particular
validity claims. Nonetheless, the assumption that conceives deliberation as
detached from political particularisms, must be questioned. e political
dimension of this process not only affects (and is affected by) its immedi-
ate political and social environment, but, more importantly, it is inherent
in the argumentation itself.
Stone (, pp. –) does not unanimously reject deliberation,
though. Despite being critical of its very foundations, what can be done
only from aperspective of different foundations (in this case– through
the ontology based on “the political”, the immanence of conflict and per-
sonal goals), her proposition for analyst does combine acknowledgment
of both aconflicting rivalry of individuals, and the collaborative, more
altruistic approach within groups and organizations as well as on ascale
of larger, pluralistic social bodies, within aunit of analysis called polis.
Policy Paradox and Argumentative Turn…
The argumentative turn and deliberative policy analysis
e phrase “argumentative turn” was coined in  by the editors of e
Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning (Fischer, Forester,
). It has never occupied the central place in the mainstream theory
and methodology of public policy, however it has seen several sequels
(Hajer, Wagenaar, ; Hansson, Hadorn, ) and revoked debates
central to the first book in consecutive decades. e starting point of
the turn is similar to the one taken by Stone, i.e. the recognition of the
two-dimensional context of the analysis in public policy: the substantive
and political aspect of the term “argumentation” (Fischer, Forester, ,
p. ). e editors of the book draw on an eclectic range of theories and
approaches in political theory and philosophy of science, including “Witt-
genstein, Austin, Gadamer, Habermas, Foucault, and Derrida, and […]
postmodernism, post-empiricism, post-structuralism, post-positivism, etc.
(Fischer, Forester, , p. ). e authors of the argumentative turn also
focus on the role of political analysts, situating them between expertise,
policy and politics, and recognizing the multi-dimensional context of
their work. An analyst carries out the following tasks: locating facts and
creating data collection mechanisms; constructing values; anticipating the
consequences of the proposed solutions in practical, political and ethical
terms; developing social networks and ensuring personal relations with
coworkers and stakeholders; evaluating uncertainties and planning strate-
gies that take them into consideration; and analysis and understanding of
general discursive frames (Fischer, Forester, ; Hajer, Wagenaar, ).
However, not all of these theories are compatible with each other, and
especially Habermas– with his revoke of Gadamer’s and Wittgenstein’s
hermeneutics and criticism of Foucault’s and Derrida’s presumed post-
modernist relativism– stands out as aproponent of apost-analytical ap-
proach to public policy. From this position, his criticism of decisionism
is not that profound, therefore it requires correction rather than negation.
is distinction becomes apparent upon acloser inspection of the content
of respective volumes on the argumentative turn, which– all of them being
Wojciech Ufel
multi-author collections of articles– allow for such an eclectic composi-
tion. By sharing acommon core question, authors deliver different propo-
sitions for the science and practice of public decision-making that can be
compared and examined to see whether the deliberative answer is, in the
end, capable of recognizing problems indicated by the policy paradox.
e first strain of the argumentative turn, which Icall interpretive
or hermeneutic, adheres to the general assumption of the impossibility
of reference to extra- or meta-linguistic aspects of society and politics.
According to this approach, every information, data or observed fact of
the society must be mediated by categories and norms emerging from
linguistic practices, be it theory-embedded observations or normative
claims. ere is no objective reality that is directly accessible to political
analysts, therefore their approach ought to be aware of their own (and
their partners, coworkers and stakeholders’) discursive reality. It leads
certain scholars to dwell on problems that were also debated within the
theory of deliberation. Such is acase for rhetoric and narratives, however
it occurs in away resembling the hermeneutic literary analysis (Gottweis,
; Kaplan, , pp. –), or emphasizing the role of listening to
stories and befriending stakeholders with whom the analyst work (Forester,
, p. ). Anormative role of persuasion in the process of overcoming
uncertainty of information and ambiguity of facts and values– another
theme important for Stone– has also been discussed in the later instances
of the argumentative turn (Hansson, Hadorn, ).
But the theoretical focus of the argumentative turn also goes further
than it concerned mainstream deliberative democrats, as numerous au-
thors also focus on discourses and their roles in public policy. Martin Rein
and Donald Schön (, pp. –) reflect on the importance of dis-
cursive frames, especially on the way in which the social world described
by analysts is constructed by several discursive frames competing with
each other over hegemonic formulation of the policy issues and solutions.
ey acknowledge the impossibility of choosing one of these frames as
an objective reference point that would be validating the others, but still
advise policy analysis to conduct frame-reflective discourses (or, in Mary
Policy Paradox and Argumentative Turn…
Hawkesworth [] words, adeconstruction of discursive frames) in or-
der to better understand political and normative challenges it itself faces.
Martin Hajer (, pp. –) is interested in understanding how social
change is fostered or obstructed by analyzing the strategic process of
the formation of discursive coalitions. is leads to arather genealogical
inquiry in the modes of operationalization of several power/knowledge
conglomerates, but at the same time encourages an empirical research
of discourses and various actors of the social and political life, such as
politicians and policy experts, but also media and journalists, experts,
universities, different publics and so on.
On the other hand, the deliberative strain of the argumentative turn
seeks another response to the experts’ bias and persuasive influence. By
areference to legitimacy stemming from the consensus (Jennings, ),
or by appealing to the discursive ethics (Dryzek, ), they claim that it
can be overcame when mediated by rationality-based intersubjectivity.
Abroad array of citizens, when provided with proper conditions of mutual
respect, increasing understanding and relatively similar initial positions/
low polarization, is less likely to be partisan and biased, and the plethora
of orientations and perspectives is working towards closing the gap of
ambiguous information and unjustified ascription of value (Healey ,
; McRae, ). Unfortunately, the authors do not recognize the in-
evitable failure of this endeavor in non-ideal conditions, therefore do not
recognize the issue of ambiguity and uncertainty as aserious challenge
for deliberation.
e most nuanced elaboration on the deliberative theory in the context
of the argumentative turn is delivered by Dryzek and Caroline Hendriks
(), and therefore it is worth closer examination. In the editors’ intro-
duction and the first essay of the collection entitled e Argumentative
Turn Revisited, the argumentative turn is presented as heavily influenced
by the Habermasian turn to communicative practice embedded in the so-
cial and political context (lifeworld and the system). Dryzek and Hendriks
(, p. ) allocate the turn within two major shifts that advanced the
deliberative theory: the extension of the scope of means of communication
Wojciech Ufel
accepted in the course of deliberation; and the movement towards insti-
tutionalization of deliberation into practices based on mini-publics. But
their recognition of the influence of the argumentative turn on the theory
of deliberation– despite bearing no real trace in the literature– seems
to be arather retrospective attempt at finding the connections with the
main themes of the argumentative turn. At the same time, they are not ac-
cepting the assumptions and consequences of the non-Habermasian strain
of the turn. For example, in their ‘broad view’ of what deliberation is about,
they write: “We thus admit any kinds of communications as long as they
can induce reflection on the part of those who attend to the communication,
are noncoercive, can connect particular interests to some more general
principles, and involve an effort to communicate in terms that others can
accept” (Dryzek, Hendriks, , p. ). ose arguments can be traced
down to developments in the theory that are independent of the argumen-
tative turn, but at the same time they omit the answer to other challenges,
posed by the interpretative strain: the impossibility of truly noncoercive
communication, contingency of general principles, strategic construction
of discursive framing (also the framing of the process of deliberation itself ),
and the unavoidable uncertainty and incompleteness of information. e
only answer that deliberation can provide to the policy paradox, is therefore
an extension of the problem from asingle policy expert/analyst, to alarger
public providing abroader overview of contingencies and biases that might
occur within the traditional information-analysis-decision process. But it
is not capable of overcoming the more general issues that structure and
distort the policy decision-making process.
Conclusions: on the possibility of the hermeneutic approach
to deliberation
By revealing the complex and contingent role of information, and the per-
suasive process that follows its formulation and communication, the
abovementioned criticism of the decisionist policy-making reveals certain
Policy Paradox and Argumentative Turn…
serious challenges to the theory of deliberation. Questioning core as-
sumptions of deliberation confronts the whole theory with the problem
of its justification– aproblem which the founding fathers of deliberative
democracy (Cohen, ; Habermas, ; Rawls, ), but also some
scholars of today (Landemore, ), tried to solve exactly through rational,
consensus-based deliberation. But these are not, by any means, challenges
that has not been posed before: Habermas himself debated those issues
with Gadamer and Foucault; the problems of discursive inequalities have
been raised by radical democrats (Mouffe, ; Rancière, ) and femi-
nist thinkers (Fraser, ); and an omission in the theory of authority has
been criticized from the position of conservative political realism (Warren,
). What is different for argumentative turn, and in fact rare for such
aprofound criticism of deliberation, is that it does not reject the theory
as awhole, but rather invites it to rethink its foundations and reformulate
in order to be able to properly address contemporary challenges of public
policy. While this invitation has not been fully “accepted”– deliberative
democrats responding to the argumentative turn defended their position
rather than recognizing the consequences of the interpretative approach–
some concepts put forth by Stone, Fischer and others can be useful in
overcoming certain problems that not only cause theoretical confusion,
but also manifest themselves in practice.
But what would it mean to challenge the foundations of deliberative
democracy? e main premise of the deliberative theory is to deliver ra-
tional and therefore radically democratic legitimacy to political decisions.
To achieve that, anoncoercive, sincere and faithful argumentation (even
if logics and evidence are not the only allowed means of communica-
tion) needs to provide anon-contingent basis for justification of validity
claims on topics integral for policy-making: understanding of the issue
at hand, values addressed to certain claims and their priorities, proposed
policy solutions and their expected effects etc. An intersubjective, com-
municative rationality is to provide such abasis, but only if it can rely on
noncoercive use of language. erefore certain assumptions on language,
communication, individual rationality and the autonomy of acitizen are
Wojciech Ufel
needed to be made, but all of them are challenged– at least to some ex-
tent– by post-foundationalist critique, including the policy paradox and
the argumentative turn.
Aparticular criticism of rationality is also provided within the her-
meneutic approach, and here Imainly think of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s
late Philosophical Investigations and On certainty. e possibility of its
application to the problem of communicative rationality is already hinted
by Mouffe (, pp. –), and has been also put forward by several
Wittgensteinian scholars, most notably James Tully and Aletta Norval. ey
adhere to Wittgenstein’s description of how language games interact with
each other in order to transform, clarify, solidify, prevent or even free one
from specific ways of seeing the World, so-called “forms of life”. Aconcept
of language games does allow for both poststructuralist and deliberative
conceptions of how language is used, i.e. it rejects (as nonsensical) the
debate whether language is primarily divisive or consensual. In order
to prove that languages– and therefore the whole communication– is
primarily based on consensus and understanding, Habermas approached
the issue by applying Austin’s concept of illocution and perlocution and
argued that even when language is used for adeception, there need to be
aprimal understanding of the words that are used by all interlocutors.
Poststructuralists, on the other hand, claimed that language is primarily
afunction of division, as it is used to (arbitrarily) distinguish certain objects,
material or ideal, from its surroundings, and therefore will always divide
the World: exclude and hide something. In political theory of democracy,
these concepts evolved into complex ontologies, which were, however,
hostile to each other and fought for primacy over the possible meanings
and forms of democratic social order. AWittgensteinian approach would
deem those discussions as fundamentally nonsensical, however it does not
reject their results. It rather understands them as two ways of describing
social and political reality, two separate language games, which might be
operationalized to induce social change. Norval (, pp. –) sug-
gest that in this way awhole range of institutional politics– and through
this also public policy– can be reinvented within the agonistic perspective
Policy Paradox and Argumentative Turn…
of democracy; Tully (, p. ) also tackles the agonistic and poststruc-
turalist approach to identity politics, which focuses on the difference and
negation as means of establishing “true” identities, by stating that they can
also be recognized and formed in dialogue. ose examples resemble the
transformation of the decisionist approach to public policy proposed by
Stone, who did not claim the need of replacement of one view of politics
and policy by another, contradictory one, but rather proposed acomplex
model of polis integrating various aspects of both.
Adeliberative theory void of its fundamental promise of bringing ra-
tionality and democracy together into aviable political practice must seek
different justification, or purpose of its application. Interestingly, it is not
anew task, but rather aredefinition of its priorities. Despite democratic le-
gitimacy and rational foundation of politics being always the primal goal of
deliberative democracy, stressed especially by Habermas (Habermas, ,
pp. –) in his discourse and universalization principles, there has
always been other justification of why to implement deliberation? ese
were, however, treated rather as side effects of rational and democratic
politics. ose other possible outcomes, despite not necessarily being
rational or democratic, include: providing better grounds for making an
informed policy decision; partial inclusion of some citizens, whose voices
were earlier unheard³; conflict-solving and community-building, including
the educational process of gaining deliberative competences and learning
how the political system operates; and finally it also provides additional
legitimacy to certain unpopular policies that politicians understand as
vital to be implemented.
e hermeneutic approach also questions the validity of privileging the
rational speech above other means of communication. While the current
³ Radical democrats stress that either rational speech, or in fact any political endeavor
initiated from within the hegemonic system, will always be “blind” to some excluded
groups, be it social outcasts, illegal immigrants, unacknowledged minorities etc.
In case of deliberative policy planning, the inclusion is limited to those people
who hold astatus of citizens, and are already recognized as valid members of the
society to at least some extent.
Wojciech Ufel
debate on deliberation acknowledges other, subjective modes of speaking
as valid, they are only justified when actually helping rational arguments
to be expressed clearly and in proper context. But the hermeneutic ap-
proach treats rationality not as an objective (or intersubjective) point of
reference, but rather as ahegemonic expression of dominant norms, values,
truths and myths about social order, and other standardized narratives of
the hegemonic class. Rationality alone, therefore, is never subversive and
can therefore be defective in providing radical change, especially when
it is needed to tackle such challenges as climate change (Machin, ).
Even deliberative democrats recognize that “cold rationalism” is acultural
characteristic that is mostly ascribed to certain, already privileged class,
race, age and sex, i.e. middle- and upper-class, white, middle-aged men
(Young, , pp. –). Only when other means of communication,
including those that employ violence (i.e. protests, occupation of public
spaces etc.) are understood and expressed⁴ as equal language games to
logic-based, analytical rationality, can deliberation move towards more
open, compassionate and equal modes of functioning.
e abovementioned points are conceptual and directly related to the
deliberative theory, but they also have practical consequences. ere are,
however, areas directly connected to the political practice that the policy
paradox and argumentative turn emphasize, but are difficult to solve, or
even nonexistent, in theoretical or conceptual approaches to deliberation.
is is most prominently the function that expert knowledge plays in
shaping the course of deliberation, but also the role of leadership. Both of
those cases invoke some type of coercion and therefore are problematic
for the (less or more) idealistic approach to deliberation. But ahermeneutic
perspective on deliberation, by freeing it from the mirage of universalism,
opens it up to new debates and discussion on how to operationalize those
two by both acknowledging their coercive potentiality, but also the fact
Abold and direct expression of this is needed in order to empower those par-
ticipants of deliberative process who, due to their subaltern position in the social
dimension of power, do not feel “naturally” predestined to publically argue, make
claims, defend their interests and give opinions on behalf of the rest of the society.
Policy Paradox and Argumentative Turn…
that they can foster understanding between participants or direct the
discussion in away that will more precisely address the problem at hand.
Arole of moderators, especially in large mini-publics that are constraint
in time, is rarely debated (Kuyper, ), while in many cases they be-
come key actors influencing the course and results of the deliberative
process. Aside from experts and moderators, discursive leadership is also
exerted by politicians, media, lobbyist and many other agents in the im-
mediate surrounding of the deliberation, and finally also by participants
themselves. By opening the issue of leadership in deliberation to debate,
new problems and challenges might be identified, but also abetter un-
derstanding of good practices that foster deliberation– respective to its
properly identified goals– might become anew and fruitful development
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... While the hermeneutic approach recognizes the multiplicity of sites and operations of power, leading deliberative democrats in the field(Dryzek and Hendriks, 2012) simply argue that diverse deliberative settings will be capable of reaching policy goals without the need to be influenced in any way by politics. We disagree with such a simplifying perspective (see: Ufel, 2022). ...