Final exam: 228

Okay, here are all four exam questions:

Pol 228: Final Exam Questions                    F09


Write a response to ONE of the following (series of) questions. Make explicit reference to the arguments of Gutmann and Thompson and, where appropriate, to the Stolzenberg piece and/or the chapters in the Macedo book. (This is, obviously, an open book exam.)

Make sure to answer ALL parts of the question (although you are free to answer the various parts in any order you deem fit). Also, feel free to use examples to illustrate your points—remembering, of course, to explain how the example works, and not simply asserting that it does so.

Answers should be typewritten, approximately 1500 words—and please, NO COVER SHEET.

Good luck!

1. Gutmann and Thompson offer two sets of principles to guide their version of deliberative democracy, with the first set of three principles dealing with the process of deliberation, and the second set of three dealing with the content of that deliberation. What, if anything, do these principles have to do with actual politics? A number of authors in Macedo argue that deliberative democracy appears to have very little to do with governance, or with the day-to-day activities of politics; what, specifically, are their objections? Are there ways to adapt Gutmann & Thompson’s schema so as to take account of these objections? What of the notion that deliberative democracy is the best form of democracy? Is it? Or is it best suited to a specific set of issues or to a specific kind of politics or level of governance? Whether deliberation is the main form or only a part of democratic politics, how does it fit within politics generally?

2. Gutmann and Thompson note that ‘Of the challenges American democracy faces today, none is more formidable than the problem of moral disagreement,’ and that the best way to deal with such disagreement is through their version of deliberative democracy. Are they correct in arguing that moral disagreement is the most formidable problem in politics? Why discuss moral as opposed to ideological or some other form of disagreement? What of the argument that deliberation can in some circumstances worsen the disagreement? Consider the Mozert v. Hawkins case (as discussed by various authors, including Stolzenberg); was this a good test of Gutmann & Thompson’s version of deliberation? What of the charge that, in consideration of this case, Gutmann & Thompson cloak their own values within their allegedly neutral principles? Could deliberation have led to a different outcome? Finally, what of the need to reach conclusions or form policy, perhaps over the strong and principled objection of one of the parties; do Gutmann and Thompson adequately discuss (what I and others have labeled) coercion in such matters?

3. How could deliberative democracy actually work within the present political system in the United States? Could it work at the national level, or is it better suited to state and local levels? How could it work at these various levels? Or would this approach work better when targeted to particular issues as opposed to particular levels of government? Regardless of whether this is applied to government or issues, who would or should lead this deliberation? Should this deliberation lead to a binding outcome, as in a vote, or serve simply to advise? If meant to advise, how could citizens insure that these deliberative sessions are not ignored by policy-makers? Or is deliberation perhaps best used by citizens themselves, to inform and deal with the differences amongst themselves, with little thought given to policy-making?

4. Gutmann and Thompson focus on deliberation as a means through which to deal with difficult moral issues, i.e., issues in which various sides are likely to see transcendent values and not simply self-interest at stake.  Is their version of deliberation a good way to deal with these issues? Explain. Is it possible that deliberation could exacerbate moral disagreement? If deliberation wouldn’t work, what would? Would it work better to treat morals as simply another interest, subject to the same trade-offs and deals as any other interest? Should we even attempt to resolve matters of great moral disagreement in a pluralistic society, or simply ‘live and let live’? If moral disagreement cannot be overcome, is there any point to deliberation?


About proftp

I teach political science and bioethics as an adjunct at a CUNY school.
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