Rose Marie Nierras (of the University of Sussex) and I conducted a kind of focus group today. The participants were activists from the United States, Canada, the Phillippines, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, and Denmark. Rose and I have been studying how deliberative democracy looks to people who work in social movements, especially in the developing world. This was the fourth and final day of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium/LogoLink meetings, and Rose and I have been interviewing the participants individually. Today’s group discussion will give us additional data; and we will conduct several more such events in several countries before we finish the project.
We are not ready to digest our results so far, but I have a few stray thoughts: It’s more difficult to mobilize lots of people for procedural reforms than for specific social causes–except when there is a dictator in the way of social progress, in which case “democracy” becomes a rallying cry. It’s easier for social advocates to embrace democratization if they believe that their cause is supported by a large majority of their fellow citizens. It’s harder to disentangle social causes from democratic reforms in new democracies than in “mature” ones.