After its surge during the final decade of the 20th century, in the new millennium, democracy has begun to encounter a crisis, both in stable and more volatile systems. Social and economic inequalities started to grow with the beginning of the 2008 economic crisis at the latest, with institutions getting weaker and citizens’ confidence in democracy deteriorating. While in this process the political Right primarily turned to populism and criticism of democracy, the Left began to develop the idea of deliberative democracy as a possible answer.
In the introductory part of her lecture, Irena Fiket, senior research associate of the Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory in Belgrade, spoke of the beginnings of the theoretical idea of deliberative democracy, which had emerged as a response to the deteriorating trust in democracy and increase in structural inequalities, as well as unequal power distribution. One of the consequences was strengthening of political apathy among citizens. The goal of deliberative democracy is therefore primarily to re-instil in citizens the trust in their own political competence, thus returning them into political life.
The central part of the lecture was dedicated to the phases of development of the deliberative models of democracy, from the theory of deliberation and the beginning of rational exchange of arguments in the public sphere, over designing and creating the institutions of deliberative democracy (first locally, and then on the national and supranational levels), right down to opening space and inclusion of citizens in the process of political decision-making. Particularly emphasised was the main criticism concerning the institutions of deliberative democracy. On the one hand their role is often reduced by the government to advisory, while on the other, there is the danger caused by insufficient distance, of the institutions of deliberative democracy becoming instruments of support for the opinions of those in power. Finally, the third type of criticism is aimed at the dominance of hegemonic attitudes which prevent, or at least obstruct minority opinions’ entering the deliberative institutions.
The lecture was held on 2 November 2023, as a part the cycle titled Regional Tea Parties “The Left” organised together with the Academic Network for Cooperation in South East Europe.