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EU sortition assembly and legitimacy 7

August 10, 2017

a.) Systemic legitimacy

With this, we come to the last of the legitimacy forms wherein focus shifts from institutional design to a forum’s relation with the broader macro-deliberative sphere. More specifically, we examine those deliberative factors affecting the transmission and insertion of the forum’s conclusions into the rest of the political or deliberative system. Of note will be four deliberative factors: publicity (Karpowitz and Raphael 2014, Lafont 2015, Mansbridge et al. 2012, Olsen and Trenz 2014, Parkinson 2006), political uptake (Caluwaerts and Reuchamps 2016, Parkinson 2006), transparency (Karpowitz and Raphael 2014, MacKenzie and Warren 2012), and accountability (Escobar and Elstub 2017, Parkinson 2006). The presence or absence of these criteria, or a subset thereof, is critical for determining whether the participant or observer confers legitimacy on the forum’s conclusions.

The first criterion so designated is “publicity”. While the term is polysemous (Karpowitz and Raphael 2014: 22-23), we intend it in a broad sense: whether and how the deliberative forum manages to “address and potentially include all the citizens to whom collective decisions apply” (Olsen and Trenz 2014: 120). Put somewhat differently, publicity concerns the forum’s success in “communicating their goals, process, and conclusions to other elements of the political system” (Karpowitz and Raphael 2014: 5). This might take place through: the participants’ reporting back to their communities, before, during or after deliberation, and setting up their own forums (Escobar and Elstub 2017); their ensuring coverage in the available mass media (Parkinson 2006, Elstub and Escobar forthcoming); their feeding conclusions through the traditional political institutions for additional reach and resonance (Rummens 2016). Regardless, the forum must assure public outreach of one shape or another if they are to meet the publicity criterion.

Political uptake stands as the second criterion in establishing systemic legitimacy. Follow Caluwaerts and Reuchamps (2016), this term designates “the effective impact of the deliberative decisions on real world politics”, if not through direct implementation by policymakers, at least as the starting point to their agenda-setting (15). In short, we seek to know to what extent the deliberative forum’s conclusions are integrated within the formal political institutions. For the forum must yield practical results if it is to be a political actor amongst others, bearing on rather than away from the rules of the political game. While this might be accomplished more readily by linking the forum up with those institutions through formal embedding or shared membership between the two, that link may carry dangers of co-optation (Caluwaerts and Reuchamps 2016: 22-3). That said, the lack of any formal link carries with it the risk of no political uptake, which seemingly consigns the forum to illegitimacy on one important criterion.

As regards transparency, this condition concerns the extent to which the forum includes “mechanisms for oversight, competition between information providers, and opportunities to openly challenge statements, claims, or positions”. (MacKenzie and Warren 2012: 112). Furthermore, it
allows those who are willing, in principle, to forgo the efficiencies of passive trust, to actively verify whether a minipublic is competent or sufficiently knowledgeable, and whether deliberations were substantive and sufficiently well conducted to allow for the emergence of an identifiable expression of public interest (idem).
Such mechanisms and means allow participants and non-participants to bring into focus both the content of deliberation and its institutional framing. If we take seriously the idea that content’s quality is dependent on framing and that content must be publicized in the name of systemic legitimacy, it would seem to follow that framing qua content-structuring is subject to that same demand on behalf of both participants and non-participants. Any forum excluding recourse to mechanisms and means of this kind runs the risk of its systemic legitimacy falling away.

Finally, the systemic legitimacy criterion of accountability requires that participants “also persuade those who did not take part in it of its legitimacy” (Karpowitz and Raphael 2014: 6). In this sense, accountability brings together certain aspects from the criteria of “publicity” and “transparency” above insofar as these concern to whom and of what one gives an account. Indeed, the accountability criterion concerns both those within the forum and without as Escobar and Elstub (2017) demonstrate in laying out five possible lines of formal accountability for mini-publics: participant-participant; participant-community, organizers-organizers, organizers-convening body, convening body-representative body (9). While these forms of accountability may assuage doubts over principal-agent accountability all while securing higher deliberative quality (Escboar and Elstub), others will prefer principal-agent accountability through electoral means in the case of a decision-making deliberative forum (Parkinson 2006: Ch. 4). Regardless, from the above emerges the importance of institutionalizing intramural and extramural ties of responsibility, without which deliberative forums may lack a basic form of legitimacy ordinarily secured to representative democracy in virtue of its very form.

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