Dienstag, 25. Mai 2010

Democratic Politics as Problem Solving

I took part in a webinar last night about a new report by DDC's Matt Leighninger, "Creating Spaces For Change: Working towards a 'story of now' in civic engagement" @ the W.K. Kellog Foundation, a report summarizing the ways in which community organizing and deliberative democracy are converging, the remaining differences, and overarching priorities shared by both strands of active civic engagement.

We discussed the idea that we have of "politics", a favourite topic of mine. It seems to me that if you think of politics as pragmatic (pragmatistic in my book) problem resolution, in the sense of working together on collective problems, that is a wholly different story than thinking of politics as making collectively binding decisions (a distinction made by Raban Daniel Fuhrmann).

Often, the latter interpretation is dominant, leading to a conception of deliberative or cooperative contributions which are made in the forecourt of actual decision makers. I'd like to think there are no property rights to public problems, and everyone with our without a stake in it can start working on the problem with others if they so want. Which would require a massive investment in procedural competence and capacity, by which I mean the know-how (competence) of organizing transformative dialogues (more than deliberation), and the opportunity structures (capacity) that lower the cost of organizing such dialogues.

I really like what Xavier de Souza Briggs says in "Democracy as Problem Solving": “Democracy is a recipe for structuring the participation of stakeholders in solving problems that confront them collectively in a way that (1) makes significant decisions as accessible and inclusive as possible and (2) avoids patterns of domination, subject to the aim of (3) producing outcomes that are recognized as promoting legitimate interests and values” (Xavier de Souza Briggs 2008: 312).

De Souza Briggs is on a train of thought which originated with John Dewey, that great philosopher of democracy. I think if he is read, and reconscructed, in a procedural perspective, that's the most productive approach to understand organized dialogues - see my post on Procedural Politics: The Example of Organized Dialogue.