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Policy Sciences

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 287–311 | Cite as

The nature of the beast: are citizens’ juries deliberative or pluralist?

  • Dave Huitema
  • Marleen van de Kerkhof
  • Udo Pesch
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Democracy Deliberation Pluralism Citizens’ juries The Netherlands 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support received from the European Commission under of the Fifth Framework Program of the European Commission (contract RPAM-2002–00057) and the province of Flevoland for organizing the juries described here. A team consisting of Leontien Bos, Ron Lavrijsen, Robert Leever, Rienk Terweij, Maria van Tilburg, and Femke Winsemius carried out the organization of the juries with the authors. We gratefully acknowledge the team’s role in this respect and in collection of the data represented here. We thank Frans Berkhout (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Frank Biermann (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Mark Brown (California State University), Paul Lucardie (Rijks Universiteit Groningen), and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Our thanks to Maria Gordon and Eric Massey for turning this article into readable English for us and for giving us many substantive suggestions for improvement. Beatrice Alders and Paula van Asperen have earned our gratitude for their help on layout and for design of the figures in this article.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dave Huitema
    • 1
  • Marleen van de Kerkhof
    • 1
  • Udo Pesch
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Environmental StudiesVrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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