In their efforts to uncover the principles of a robust conception of democracy, theorists of deliberative democracy place a premium on the role of political expression—public speech and reasoned debate—as the key to democratic processes. They also frequently hark back to historical antecedents (as in the Habermasian invocation of the “public sphere” of eighteenth-century bourgeois society and the Arendtian valorization of the classical Athenian polis) in their quest to establish that deliberative procedures are more than “merely theoretical” and instead have a practical application. But for all this emphasis on the discursive and historical dimensions of democracy, these theorists have generally neglected the rich resources available in the history of rhetorical theory and practice. It is the purpose of Talking Democracy to resurrect this history and show how attention to rhetoric can help lead to a better understanding of both the strengths and limitations of current theories of deliberative democracy.
Contributors, besides the editors, are Russell Bentley, Tsae Lan Lee Dow, Tom Murphy, Arlene Saxonhouse, Gary Shiffman, John Uhr, Nadia Urbinati, John von Heyking, and Douglas Walton.