The nature of the beast. Are citizens’ juries deliberative or pluralist

D. Huitema, M.F. van de Kerkhof, U. Pesch

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Citizens' juries are a form of "minipublics," small-scale experiments with citizen participation in public decision-making. The article presents a theoretical argument that improves understanding relating to the design of the citizens' jury. We develop the claim that two discourses on democracy can be discerned: the deliberative and the pluralist. By looking at the design features of citizens' juries we conclude that they are based on pluralist reasoning to a far greater extent than most authors seem to realize, and that the association with deliberative democracy is therefore one-sided. Based on empirical findings, we attempt to shed further light on the actual operation of citizens' juries. Observations of two recent Dutch juries suggest on the one hand that a learning process and a positive effect on the sense of political involvement occurred. On the other hand, we saw a certain level of groupthink in one of the citizens' juries, and found that the juries are not greatly representative in terms of political preferences. Our findings point firstly to a need for greater awareness among the organizers of juries of the two democratic discourses. This would lead to more consistent jury design. Secondly, our research emphasizes the need for more hands-on critical research of minipublics. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2007.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-311
Number of pages25
JournalPolicy Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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