Strategies of Deliberation: Bourdieu and Struggles over Legitimate Positions

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Abstract

Bourdieusian contributions to the discourse on deliberative democracy have recently proved issues of ‘deliberative inequality’ to be more complicated than previously imagined. Some have come to question the desirability or sufficiency of deliberative forms of politics. Others, like James Bohman, have found Bourdieu's theorizing lacking the conception of people's reflexive capacities required to understand social and political change. Critics and defenders of deliberative politics alike place Bourdieu in opposition to deliberation. In contrast, this article argues that Bourdieu provides, through the concepts investment, field and symbolic capital, an alternative vision of deliberative change. This alternative view bases strategies for change on investment in social fields, in which agents work for the expansion of norms that allow them to make legitimate claims. Empirical findings from the literature on participatory budgeting support the argument that the Bourdieusian view is highly relevant to debates about the transformative potential of ‘mini-publics’ in deliberative systems.

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