These reports make clear that increasing the time spent supporting individual, marginalised customers has a positive effect, especially as experienced by participants themselves. The process of holistic interviewing, identification of needs and referrals was greatly appreciated by participants, who overwhelmingly wanted to improve their own circumstances. It should be self-evident that nurturing the personal capabilities of marginalised and disengaged citizens is a fundamental aspect of enhancing both the prospects for, and success of, subsequent efforts at collaborative policymaking and service delivery.
Engaging with socially excluded and other marginalised people in order to design, with them, effective solutions and services requires considerable cross-agency collaboration—something which, as a rule, is notoriously difficult to achieve. Strong links with external service providers are also required. Better coordination is of itself rarely enough; additional resources are needed. But despite these challenges there are grounds for optimism in the successes of agencies like Centrelink.
They express a distinctive commitment to collaboration in policy and services design, with public servants, citizens and relevant stakeholder groups working as partners across the spectrum of activity—from diagnosis and analysis of issues through to tactical and strategic considerations in pursuit of jointly devised outcomes. I find that I can argue the case for greater citizen engagement equally convincingly from the perspectives of shifting power from the state to the individual right?
I can base my rationale either on the democratic rights of individual citizens left? I can posit the benefits of greater involvement of non-government organisations either from the perspective of creating competitive markets for the delivery of public goods right?
My point is simply this: the politics of participation is complex but not fatal. Co-production essentially redefines the relationship between public service professionals and citizens from one of dependency to mutuality and reciprocity. On such an account, citizens in receipt of services are conceived as resources of value to, and collaborators in animating, the system, rather than as mere beneficiaries of it. That is, users of public services are not defined entirely by their needs, but also by what they might contribute to service effectiveness, and to other users and their communities through their own knowledge, experience, skills and capabilities.
The past two decades have witnessed successful examples of co-production, including in developing countries  , which typically enable struggling communities and disadvantaged individuals to collaborate with service organisations in designing and implementing solutions to their problems. Some relevant case studies appear in Appendix 1. The evidence In recent years, there has been a radical reinterpretation of the role of policymaking and service delivery in the public domain.
Policy is now seen as the negotiated outcome of many interacting policy systems, not simply the preserve of policy planners and top decision-makers. Similarly, the delivery and management of services are no longer just the preserve of professionals and managers—users and other members of the community are playing a larger role in shaping decisions and outcomes. This is a revolutionary concept in public service Finally, it demands that politicians and professionals find new ways to interface with service users and their communities.
Because co-production entails a different division of power between public service agencies, private sector entities, civil society actors and citizens, questions of governance are especially important. New forms of accountability which, like power, is also increasingly dispersed are required, and must be made robust through governance arrangements that are suited to non-hierarchical, networked collaborations.
Increasingly, government provides the leadership, change agenda and democratic institutions, and governance is how the work gets done. This process is characterised by a broad dispersal of power and responsibilities in society. No one controls all the tools or possesses all the levers to address the complex issues that people really care about.
To be sure, government is a player like no others. Its actions affect the overall performance of the governance system From what is emerging in the public policy literature, and the reported outcomes of both pilot and ongoing initiatives, the case for co-production is compelling. It embodies and promotes democratic principles; it maximises the inputs from expert and lay sources; it builds capacity and trust; it has proven strategically efficacious in policy areas that involve behavioural change at both societal and individual levels. It includes pre-natal advice to pregnant mothers, parenting classes, pre-kindergarten activity centres where parents are taught about the benefits of, among other things, reading to their children , excellent kindergarten schools and excellent middle and high schools with full support breakfast clubs, computer classes, sports clubs, university preparation classes.
This paper has repeatedly acknowledged the difficulties and complexities associated with achieving genuine citizen engagement. Co-production, with its multiple negotiated relationships, is especially challenging because questions of power and its redistribution lie at the heart of the endeavour. The difficulty for these new professionals is that they have to work in ways that seem, at first sight, opposed to the prevailing culture around them.
Co-production demands that public service staff shift from fixers who focus on problems to enablers who focus on abilities. Their job is to re-define the client or patient before them, not according to their needs but according to their abilities, and to encourage them to put those abilities to work. This role is not recognised or rewarded within the management structures that are currently in place. People with hard-earned professional qualifications and official responsibilities might well be reluctant to share power with users and communities. They may be reluctant to trust the behaviours and decisions of ordinary citizens.
In particular, the public servant who is inclined to take citizen engagement seriously may yet be uncertain of the robustness of the political and personal support of those to whom he or she is accountable. Ministers are typically risk-averse and senior public officials are often cautious as a result. Questions will inevitably arise about who qualifies as a stakeholder, who gets to participate, the balance of representation, and the risks of self-selection or volunteerism.
Participation by outsiders in government policy and regulatory matters, especially by NGOs or industry groups, may prompt fears of capture by special interests. Moreover, a proliferation of participants may increase the chances of conflict and lead to protracted negotiations, possibly paralysing the overall process. The very nature of co-production involves a willingness to break with orthodoxy, but this should not exceed the bounds of fiscal rectitude or the standards of acceptable stewardship of public resources.
Where co-production occurs, power, authority and control of resources are likely to be divided not necessarily equally between the state and groups of citizens in an interdependent and ambiguous fashion. The key message of the APS reform blueprint Ahead of the Game is wholly consistent with calls for a new public service ethos and a new type of public service professional who can work with devolved power, choice and control.
The magnitude of the change in culture, and the enhancement of skills, required for a citizen-centric approach to public service cannot be underestimated.
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These are matters to which we have repeatedly alluded to, and to which we must now turn our attention. The rewards of engagement are enhanced legitimacy and better information. The risks lie in capture, backlash and confused accountabilities. Managing these risks means having a good strategic perspective—that is, an overview of the costs and benefits of different courses of action and an understanding of the realpolitik knowing the stakes for politicians, agencies and communities.
ROUTES TO ENGAGEMENT: PRIVATE AND PUBLIC
The principal challenge for public servants in charting a forward course is to balance formal and informal ways of communicating with stakeholders. The protocols of accountability and control prescribe formal conversations: where what is said, and to whom, are on the public record. On the other hand, public business would grind to a halt without the informal conversations that establish context and hopefully clarify intentions.
Effective engagement seems to require the experience, judgment and confidence to know which modality is appropriate and when to make the switch. This is not just a matter of how personally savvy or professionally competent a public servant might be. The mandate and powers of their agency shape purpose and practice. This is where the existence or otherwise of joined-up government, genuine agency collaboration and progressive public service leadership will have a powerful effect on whether a particular group of public servants will actually be able to facilitate a successful engagement with citizens.
Progressive leadership, in this context, refers to a style of leadership that is strategic, collegial, navigationally-competent, citizen-focussed, not risk-averse, not turf-bound. The disposition and knowledge of citizens who participate is a major consideration. As discussed earlier, citizens may be well or poorly disposed to participate depending on the urgency of their concerns, the relevance of the matter being addressed, the nature of their previous engagements with government if any to say nothing of the personal qualities and habits of heart and mind that influence their dispositions.
We have noted, too, that optimal outcomes emerge when participants are well-informed, can reason well, assess evidence and so on. On this account, engagement and consultation is not for the faint-hearted. We have also discussed how the dilemmas and difficulties of engagement become especially acute with respect to marginalised groups and individuals, or where cultural differences make communication problematic. Given that there is a growing literature on the challenges of engaging with, and meeting the needs of, marginalised, disenfranchised or dispossessed individuals and groups, public servants are not bereft of advice in this regard.
But once citizens—or indeed any stakeholder groups—embark upon collaborative policymaking or service design with public servants, there are risks that must be managed. Processes must be robust enough to ensure responsible and accountable decision-making, and expectations must be managed so that disillusion or disaffection does not set in. The key messages for [government] decision makers are that they should be very clear in stating the purpose of civic involvement in every proposed instance, they should select methods that are appropriate for the stated purpose, and they should avoid the rhetoric associated with other types of participation.
It is instructive to reflect on such considerations in the context of the Australia Summit, convened by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Canberra in April The Summit was a highly visible attempt by government to achieve public participation in strategic policy development. Government, irrespective of its political persuasion, does not have a monopoly on policy wisdom.
To thrive and prosper in the future we need to draw on the range of talents, ideas and energy from across the Australian community. The event and its outcomes aroused both enthusiasm and cynicism. The final report on the Summit, which emerged a year after the event, drew mixed responses, and the perceived paucity of post-Summit action by government prompted critical press comment. Nevertheless, it seems likely that Australian citizens would respond favourably to well-designed opportunities for greater participation in policy or services development.
It should be remembered, however, that history has also shown that citizen-determined outcomes may not always be for the best. Risks are inherent in any process of democratic decision-making. That said, those involved should both acknowledge and take ownership of those risks. The challenge is to ensure that consultative, decision-making processes are characterised by the most robust debate based on the best information and exposed to well-reasoned arguments.
It is not simply the fact of engagement that counts, but the quality of the exchanges that mediate it. Experienced advocates of citizen engagement are keen to dispel the myths that might prevail, and the hopes that might be entertained, among new enthusiasts for engagement.
Citizen-centered adherents stress that although deliberation, dialogue, and discussion is important to citizen-centered public work, it is not enough You have to link the process and outcomes. If realpolitik is an important consideration as part of a strategic approach to engagement, being real about engagement is even more important. In these cases, consultation can damage trust, rather than helping to build it up.
When public servants embark on a strategy of citizen engagement, there is little that they can do about the existing dispositions, attitudes and competencies of the citizens or stakeholders with whom they seek to engage. Public servants might also draw on the insights and advice of those involved in the successful exercises in co-production that have been described in the literature and included in Appendix 1.
As we have repeatedly observed, genuine engagement with citizens in policymaking and service design requires distinctive attributes and skills on the part of public servants. Deliberative participation—which many regard as the optimal form of citizen engagement—is both an art and a science. For public sector executives, this emerging network governance model will require us to broaden our core responsibilities from managing people and programmes to also providing leadership in coordinating resources that deliver public value.
Moran has been forthright in laying out the scale of what is involved in order to realise the goal of a genuinely citizen-engaged APS:. The times have changed. The needs and expectations of the Australian people have changed. And the public service must change with them. It must deliver better services for citizens and better policy advice to government. And it must renew its commitment to putting people first.
As our reforms propose change not simply to structures and procedures but to practices, attitudes and minds, they will take time to be embedded. The cultural changes anticipated by Moran and others have considerable implications for the way public servants are trained, organised, motivated and rewarded. There is scant evidence that the necessary shifts are occurring. The changes will require the active support and encouragement of portfolio ministers so that the somewhat elevated risks associated with innovation, devolution and collaboration do not constrain public servants who are traditionally conscious of political and career damage should an experiment fail or a mischief arise.
The practical and attitudinal changes envisaged for a citizen-centric public service are substantial. Increasingly, we will need to reward the capacity to work collaboratively both internally and with external partners no less than we reward the one-upmanship which often passes for high-quality policy advice.
This means we will need to promote staff who achieve value through working with others as well as being able to stand out from the crowd because of their conceptual dexterity. We need to reward those who go the extra mile in assisting people to find their way through the incredible opaque maze that is often the public face of government agencies.
These are characteristics which are not evident in the large, complex organisations that dominate the public sector. They therefore require a conscious, sustained effort on the part of the leaders and managers to change the cultures of our agencies to make them the core behaviours which are valued and rewarded. Related themes have emerged in the literature that further elevate the challenges confronting public servants, namely, the discursive nature of the policy process, and the influence of policy narratives.
For this reason, at both the institutional and individual level, a reflective and self-aware approach to the framing of policy narratives is vital. Citizens, politicians—and yes, even policy analysts It is not that the facts do not play a role; rather it is that they are embedded—explicitly or implicitly—in narrative accounts. What frequently seems to be a conflict over details Given that public participation by citizens—as opposed to, say, peak bodies and industry groups—in policymaking is currently far from the norm, the burden of responsibility for initiating, facilitating and sustaining citizen engagement falls heavily on public servants.
As expressed by the prominent public management theorist Robert Reich, the role of the modern, citizen-oriented public servant is no less than:. The ethical dimension of public service is also worth reiterating here. Web 2. In a professional and respectful manner, APS employees should engage in robust policy conversations.
In June , the Australian Government announced the establishment of its Government 2. The taskforce report Engage: Getting on with Government 2. These include responsiveness, the need for a major shift in public service culture, harnessing information and expertise, and encouraging innovation. That just underscores the fact that, along with open data Gruen nevertheless remains alert to the potential and the uncertainty that attends the pursuit by the public service of online engagement with citizens:.
Government 2. Before them lies a vast field of promise, but one that is still new. The wider literature on digital engagement and e-government reflects the same potential and uncertainty expressed by Gruen. Yet much of the debate is still on the potential opportunities and risks of Government 2. There is a broad consensus, however, that online engagement opportunities for citizens, to be truly effective, require embedding in a broader context of government openness and transparency that includes robust legislative regimes for freedom of information, public service codes of conduct, public ownership and re-use of information gathered and generated by government, and society-wide access to high quality broadband networks.
Australia appears to be making progress on all these fronts—and in some respects is already relatively well-positioned. Macnamara also raises as an important consideration that of government being the host to a consultation site as opposed to leveraging existing online discussion sites. In the broader concept of online citizen engagement proposed, there is a strong argument that government should go to the people rather than making people come to it.
Opening up government consultation beyond formal government sites, and even opening up some government information and data to third party applications, is strongly endorsed by the UK Power of Information Task Force. This has both a pragmatic and social equity rationale. A second reason for government departments and agencies to participate in public forums hosted by third parties is that discursive practices within government sites inevitably remain bound by a significant imbalance in power relationships which can limit participation levels and the effectiveness of government-hosted and managed online consultation sites.
The barriers to greater online citizen engagement in policy-making are cultural, organisational and constitutional not technological. Overcoming these challenges will require greater efforts to raise awareness and capacity both within governments and among citizens. Shortly before the federal election the Gillard Government announced that, if it were returned to office, the APSC would still undertake its expanded role as planned but would not receive the full extent of the funding specified in the Budget. The gap between the ideals of the APS engaging with citizens in a full-bodied way, and what is currently on the horizon in terms of political commitment and applied resources, does not give grounds for hope that reform will be rapid.
The Government remains committed to the Blueprint reforms, even though the Budget situation requires the Commission to implement them as far as possible within a more heavily constrained budget. Engagement concerns While engagement can develop in its own way, and along its own lines, it is clearly an area in which the values of public servants and their political masters are of prime importance in determining the extent to which it occurs and the extent to which policy is altered as a result.
In short, public servants will engage with citizens, and will collaborate in co-production of policy and public services, only to extent that ministers prescribe, department heads direct, and budgets allow. As stressed throughout this paper, robust engagement with citizens is highly desirable, and a foundational element of democratic governance. But it can be bruising and frustrating, and it must accommodate the various modes of both online and face-to-face participation.
Again, it is hard to overstate the cultural shift involved in creating a public service that is truly citizen-centric in its thinking and acting. It requires sustained political commitment from ministers, vigorous leadership from the Senior Executive Service and effective professional development and training for all involved. Participation by citizens in the governance of their society is the bedrock of democracy.
There is also much work to be done in acquainting citizens with, and building their capabilities for, participatory and deliberative practices of policy development and service delivery. This paper has acknowledged, without resolving, the challenges that this entails, and has noted the additional complexity encountered where marginalised or disempowered citizens and groups are concerned. It has also suggested that preparing citizens for engagement would not involve some kind of superficial induction course but rather a long apprenticeship to democratic decision-making through participation and socialisation within family, educational, social and work environments.
The Australian Public Service is one of our pre-eminent institutions. To remain robust, resilient and relevant it must continually evaluate its own performance and test its worth in the court of public opinion. The blueprint for reform, Ahead of the Game , is frank about this requirement. A Secretaries Board has been established to pursue reform and determine strategic priorities. Public servants, in frank and fearless mode, have a role in shaping the discourse of citizen engagement and influencing the attitudes of their ministers.
The APS blueprint has already carved out some solid territory for such a discussion, and it is reasonable to assume that its advocates remain influential upon decision-makers. Meanwhile, the concept of co-production gathers momentum. It especially requires:. The World Bank contends that collaboration is not a matter of style but rather one of stance. It is a useful differentiation because it attends to the crucial matter of perspective that informs the entire combination of elements that Commissioner Sedgwick has identified for success.
The collaborative, engaging stance means that participants and stakeholders together:. These are tall orders for a traditional, or even a progressive public service. They represent the opposite end of the spectrum from a command-and-control stance, and indeed reach well beyond the consultative approaches to engagement that currently apply. Whether such challenges will prove a bridge too far is the question of the moment.
This paper has noted that some Australian governments and local authorities have already taken steps to embed citizen participation, or at least substantial consultation, into their service design and delivery mechanisms. Some of the most striking examples, in fact, are to be found in developing countries—rural poverty alleviation in Albania; low-income sanitation and participatory budgeting in Brazil; energy reform in Colombia; communal irrigation in the Philippines.
The following case studies illustrate various types of effective citizen and stakeholder engagement in the development of policy, and the design of services in particular.
Creating the Good Society
They reflect approaches to policy and services that have been pursued within, or are potentially relevant to, an Australian context. What is also common is the existence of strong mutual commitments to making partnerships between agencies and citizens work, and allowing collaborations to proceed in a manner and a timeframe that suits both the people and the purpose. The expectation was that the knowledge and understanding of community economic development processes built over time through such active engagement with communities and community groups would contribute at many levels including:.
Scanning the wider policy arena for opportunities is imperative. This is likely to be an ongoing challenge and dilemma for any government engagement effort for two reasons. The core principles of engagement such as mutual trust, reciprocity and commitment to the process mean that one cannot pull out of the engagement. Centrelink was established in as a one-stop-shop for the integrated provision by the Australian Government of various human services and social support payments. It rapidly earned an international reputation for its cutting edge approach to service delivery.
What is unfolding are initiatives which move beyond the existing service system, to create, together with other groups, new opportunities for participation. The most successful partnerships engage people all over the community. Centrelink has already developed a strong track record of on-the-ground activity in achieving its four key aims of communicating, coordinating, collaborating and creating opportunities for participation. Given such dispersed accountability for the use of funds, a small scale experimental, path-finding approach was seen as most feasible.
Centrelink established six teams, operating in seven geographic locations, that were given a relatively free hand to develop holistic and customer-centric service delivery practices, and to build community capacity through collaboration. They included the long-term unemployed, youth leaving care, people with mental health problems, refugees, and itinerants sleeping rough.
In one instance, those involved were not current Centrelink clients, nor accessing any local support services, notwithstanding their high level of need. Local reference groups and action research teams assisted in monitoring the initiatives and helping to modify their practices as the work unfolded, as well as measuring and assessing the success of the innovations.
The initiatives proved strikingly successful. Initiative staff are exposed daily to situations where policies of different agencies and different levels of government intersect and where the collective impact effectively contributes to the disadvantage or exclusion of the customer. For best effect these two levels must be brought together and the intelligence and experience of the direct service providers must be made available in the policy development arena.
Centrelink and the social policy agencies of government should develop an appropriate mechanism for feedback concerning the impact of intersecting policies on the most disadvantaged customers from their own frontline staff. An extension of the principles adopted in the Place Bases Services program to other places, and in some cases, across the Centrelink network, would be a central element of such a development.
Effective engagement with Indigenous people in the development of policies and services has been an ongoing challenge for governments at all levels. A COAG reform process has given new impetus to improving remote service delivery and human services policy under the national Closing the Gap strategy. In July under the National Indigenous Reform Agreement all governments committed to the following service delivery principles for Indigenous Australians:. Priority principle : Programs and services should contribute to Closing the Gap by meeting the targets endorsed by COAG while being appropriate to local needs.
Indigenous engagement principle : Engagement with Indigenous men, women and children and communities should be central to the design and delivery of programs and services. Sustainability principle : Programs and services should be directed and resourced over an adequate period of time to meet the COAG targets. Access principle : Programs and services should be physically and culturally accessible to Indigenous people recognising the diversity of urban, regional and remote needs. Integration principle : There should be collaboration between and within government at all levels and their agencies to effectively coordinate programs and services.
Accountability principle : Programs and services should have regular and transparent performance monitoring, review and evaluation. To commemorate National Sorry Day 26 May the Australian Government launched the Partnership as a mechanism for collaboration with Stolen Generation members on the development of a comprehensive national policy response to support members of the Stolen generation and to help heal their grief and trauma. The big difference was that the idea of the Working Partnership was brought to us before it went ahead and our involvement discussed.
We were able to add our thoughts and recommendations to an early draft and we met and talked it through some more. It came back to us for further comment, and we got to see the input from all parties before it was finalised. So we had a chance to create it together from the beginning. The consultations inspired us to think of what could be possible if we continue to work together in cooperative partnership with government instead of providing feedback and then losing sight of the process in the policy formation and implementation stages and finding the end result looks nothing like the original feedback provided.
An initial steering group, selected by key Indigenous figures in water issues, planned a major National Indigenous Freshwater Forum, which in turn proposed and named the Council, and devised both a membership appointment process and draft terms of reference. The involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout this process, and the adoption of a governance model which allowed stakeholders to determine their own next steps, were vital to achieving such positive outcomes.
Each NEIP must be sponsored by one of a list of prescribed protection agencies that have official duties or responsibilities under the Act. There is a series of steps that the community-based initiator s and their partners must go through to ensure the robustness, and broad community endorsement, of their proposal. The sponsor is required to act on behalf of the group to bring the proposal to VEPA for endorsement, and ultimately approval as a plan with legal status that is published in the Government Gazette.
A subsequent evaluation of NEIP, published in , revisited some of these issues.
Battelle for Kids
Key implications of the study focused on the capacities of potential participants, and the capacities of the public service agencies as facilitators of participation. To plan for engagement, a governance structure was established with wide community representation, including teachers, students and parents and a range of other stakeholders. An independent facilitator was engaged to manage the entire process, which was designed to ensure inclusiveness and deliberation.
The process was a sophisticated one, involving:. All elements of the process were communicated extensively, including through local newspapers, radio and television, and the representativeness of the range of participants was expanded through additional random selection processes. As a result of the process, 58 recommendations were made to the Department.
While there was widespread support for some goals and strategies, on others there remained a diversity of views. The engagement process had been exhaustive and well-facilitated, leaving little doubt that the citizens of the Tamworth region had been given a genuine opportunity to influence the educational future of the area.
This apparent contradiction at work in American foreign policy is addressed more theoretically in other parts of The Good Society , as well as in a number of recent articles that reassess the "economic" model of our national politics, and "the patterned ways Americans have developed for living together. Bellah and his colleagues contend that the nature of our democratic institutions — from church to classroom to corporation to Congress — reinforce and even foster civic passivity and cynicism. At least some of our citizens have come to see that the present organization of our economic life, including the corporation, threatens not only our democratic government, because of its inordinate political influence, but also our national character and form of life, because of its propagation of the idea of wealth as merely the accumulation of consumer goods.
Bellah and his colleagues argue that economic factors have become such a dominating feature of latter-day democracies that some form of institutional response is called for to revitalize our democratic process. It requires a shift from the Lockean sense of rugged individual autonomy to the more fulfilling sense of social responsibility espoused by Lippmann, Dewey, and Niebuhr, the authors suggest. Democracy is an "ongoing moral quest" and the egalitarian mission of American democracy should focus on a society organized through public dialogue and concerned with local responsibility.
These conclusions are echoed by Jeffrey C. Goldfarb in his book The Cynical Society. Democracy's most pressing problem in the post-cold war era, he says, is that of cynicism. Cynicism has overwhelmed American politics, journalism, and social science, to the extent that "we confuse it with democratic deliberation and political wisdom.
Television, our major form of society-wide communication, is saturated with lies and manipulations. Our political leaders are more concerned with reelection than political accomplishment. Social justice, demanded in the civil-rights era, and promised in Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society," is more distant than ever.
For many, proclamations of the American Dream accomplished seem simply to cover up a wide range of American nightmares. And pieties about the values of democracy appear quite empty. For those who look closely and critically at the American way of life, there is much about which to be cynical. Cynicism, Goldfarb suggests, is the legitimate heir of American individualism. Interdependence is a difficult concept for Americans, for while it is one of the core virtues of democratic life it is scarcely honored in the practice of contemporary politics.
Overcoming cynicism will require a restructuring of our society from a "mass" culture of competing interests to a more communal one where the voices of individual citizens are respected and valued, he writes. A similar, if less elaborate, argument is set forth by Harvard public policy professor Steven Kelman. In an article for the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management , he maintains that the erosion of public spirit in the United States is a product of an overly competitive and adversarial institutional model.
Our political system is designed to foster self-interest rather than cooperation and as a result the discursive and deliberative integrity of public policy has been all but lost. He recommends creating legislative and administrative forums where representatives of all perspectives can engage in regular discussions: "in a collective choice process, public spirited individual participants produce good public policy by deliberating — talking with each other, listening to each other's arguments, and being willing to learn and change their minds based on such dialogue.
The arguments of Kelman, Goldfarb, and Bellah et al. In his seminal work The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere , Habermas argued that the competitive pressures of a free market economy eventually require state intervention and regulation, which in turn produces increased competition and still more regulation. Finally the state becomes a major player in the economic arena and is faced with what he called a "legitimation crisis" — a set of normative contradictions — such as the conflict between serving special interests and advancing the common good. A vibrant public sphere is the only safeguard against such a crisis, Habermas insisted.
Some form of public discourse about common affairs dialogue that arises naturally among citizens, rather than the sort orchestrated by the state , as well as an arena in which it can happen, was therefore necessary, he said. Critics of Habermas' theory point out that his concept of the public sphere is highly abstract, and even nostalgic. He patterned his theory on the political life of France, England, and Germany in the seventeenth through mid-twentieth centuries when the age-old divisions between high-culture and popular society began to fall away.
The standards of political discourse were no longer dictated exclusively by the status of the arguers white, male aristocrats but rather by the merits of the arguments themselves.
Next in print
The "ubiquity of the argument" thus became the norm of a new public discourse which enhanced both the quality and the quantity of public debate. According to Habermas, the public sphere, conceived in this way, served as a vehicle for social cohesion and a counterweight to the rival forces of state and market. Yet the model of 19th century bourgeois Europe is hardly adequate for the requirements of modern democratic theory, his critics suggest. In Habermas and the Public Sphere , an anthology of essays inspired by Habermas' theories, several of the contributors admit to owing the German philosopher a great debt of gratitude, but the overall consensus seems to be that his theories need to be expanded and elaborated to fit the needs of modern critical theory.
When you look at the range of disciplines and cultural viewpoints represented in these essays, it becomes immediately apparent just how influential Habermas' theories have been to modern political thought. From critical theory, gender and media studies to history, political theory and ethics, this anthology reflects a wide variety of academic disciplines and an overall theoretical approach less preoccupied with rational and universal principles, and more intent on finding common ground between different academic and ideological camps.
Much of the current literature indicates that contemporary democratic theory, taken as a whole, suffers from troublesome and anachronistic definitions of such basic concepts as "public," "equality," "diversity," "participation," "private interest," and, above all, "citizenship. Peter Riesenberg's Citizenship in the Western Tradition is a case in point.
Citizens' engagement in policymaking and the design of public services
The book examines the evolution of one of democracy's most fundamental concepts: citizenship. He limits his study to the year period "from Plato to Rousseau" as the subtitle states , which is a pity because the subject begins to come alive in earnest only after the French and American revolutions. Nonetheless, it is clear that over the course of the centuries the concept of citizenship has grown and evolved in tune with the times.
From the Greek polis and republican Rome to Renaissance Europe and pre-revolutionary France, citizenship evolved from an honor bestowed upon prominent members of Athenian society to a complex moral code involving both privileges and obligations. Citizenship, once a mere legal formality, has become a vital source of individual and communal identity. Riesenberg does point out, however, that in the modern era the last two centuries , the concept of citizenship has changed dramatically. Or, to put it more accurately, citizens have changed, while our notions of "citizenship" have yet to reflect those changes just as latter-day democracies have changed, while democratic theory — Habermas et al.
As Riesenberg writes, "over the past two centuries most men in the Western world have swapped gun and plow for pen, pencil, and personal computer; it is now very difficult to win republican virtue as some kind of rural or Alpine hero," as the early democratic thinkers would have it. A recent collection of essays that tries to remedy this theoretical quandary is Dimensions of Radical Democracy , edited by French scholar Chantal Mouffe.