▪ Abstract 

The growing literature on deliberative democratic practice finds that deliberation is a difficult and relatively rare form of communication. Each moment of a deliberative encounter raises significant obstacles in the path to stimulating greater intentional reflection on public issues. I explore these obstacles in the context of other empirical work in political and social psychology, small group communication, and public opinion. Taken together, these literatures explain why deliberation is difficult to achieve and sustain over time. They also suggest several rules that might assist practitioners in making deliberative democracy work better. Many of the obstacles to deliberative democracy raise questions about key theoretical constructs closely associated with deliberative democratic theory, including equality, legitimacy, autonomy, and reason. I conclude by suggesting that deliberative practitioners, empirical scholars, and theorists might gain from greater interaction.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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