Rational Choice and Democratic Deliberation: A Theory of Discourse Failure

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Our political categorizations facilely conflate questions of fundamentally different kinds, leading to a conceptual confusion that hobbles constructive discourse.


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Clarity in this discourse requires a separation between two kinds of questions, those about means and those about ends. Debates about the goals themselves are values questions, premised on our normative judgments, that is, our views on what ought to be-what makes a good society or political system. These questions and our answers to them are importantly quite different from our arguments about the practical question of how to arrive at those goals once we've settled on them.

Why mislabeling keeps us stuck in partisan politics | TheHill

And at a sufficiently general level of abstraction, there is actually a rather broad consensus as to ends, the goals at which public policy should aim. Government and public policy ought to serve high values like liberty, justice, equality, and security. Government officials, scholars, and think tankers formulate competing hypotheses about how best to achieve at those goals.

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Given the impossibility of using controlled experiments to test such hypotheses, we are left with our observations of the real-world functionings of existing policy mechanisms, often crudely rendered by statistics that capture only a hazy outline of the true picture. That term, they explain, may just signal a general "commitment to equality," without necessarily implying the acceptance of specific policy prescriptions.

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Other times, however, the leftist label expresses "a commitment to various forms of governmental interference with market processes," premised, of course, on the belief that market processes won't by themselves serve the goal of equality. His critique anchors on a theory of communicative reason. What makes Habermas' work distinctive is that he does not regard instrumental reason as the single inevitable concomitant of modernity.

Habermas sees in modernity an alternative way of conceptualising social interaction in terms of communication rather than strategy.

So in a way, his work is a challenge to the defenders of modernity aiming to build a unified social science Jurgen Habermas advances the notion of communicative reason as the centerpiece of a social theory as opposed to instrumental reason. By providing a systematic grounding of the concept of reason in human language, he hopes to establish normative basis of critical theory.

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This model of reaching agreement or consent constitutes a process of dialogue in which reasons are exchanged between participants. This process is perceived to be a joint search for consensus.

PHILOSOPHY - Rational Choice Theory: Collective Action Problems [HD]

Such a dialogic concept of collective choice would necessarily work not with fixed preferences to be amalgamated as rational choice theories do but with preferences that are altered or modified as competing reasons are advanced in the course of discussion. In rational discussion, the only thing supposed to count is the power of better argument.

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