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Constitutional ReferendumsThe Theory and Practice of Republican Deliberation$
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Stephen Tierney

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199592791

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592791.001.0001

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Participation in Constitutional Referendums

Participation in Constitutional Referendums

(p.185) 7 Participation in Constitutional Referendums
Constitutional Referendums

Stephen Tierney

Oxford University Press

This chapter returns in detail to the question of how it might be possible to facilitate deliberation in constitutional referendums by engaging direct citizen participation actively and meaningfully. It asks whether it is feasible to introduce elements of deliberative participation into a referendum process which can overcome the allegation that referendums serve simply to aggregate pre-formed preferences and thereby fail to foster meaningful deliberation. One major conundrum for democratic theory is that deliberation is widely thought possible only within small groups. As Fishkin puts it, ‘we seem to face a forced choice between politically equal but relatively non-deliberative masses and politically unequal but relatively more deliberative elites’. This is the key dilemma which the chapter confronts by addressing both the opportunity for participation and the quality of participation feasible within a referendum process. The focus is upon referendum practice, considering the prospects for deliberation within a referendum as they might arise in different ways over a range of stages, across various settings, and by means of a plurality of modes.

Keywords:   deliberation, constitutional referendums, democratic theory, referendum process

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