Pathologies of Political Judgment and Democratic Deliberation
Theorists of deliberative democracy maintain that genuine dialogue is premised on the mutual respect of participants, yet a great deal of what passes for civic discourse even in mature democracies takes place among political actors who avowedly do not respect one another. This dissertation investigates psychological obstacles to mutual respect, and mutual understanding, in an effort to enhance possibilities for democratic deliberation. It identifies two such obstacles in political narcissism and ressentiment, which it construes as pathologies of political judgment. More generally, the dissertation argues for a self-consciously hermeneutical and psychoanalytically informed approach to deliberation, one that seeks a deeper understanding of our interlocutors in deliberation so as to carry on a more fruitful dialogue with them. Accordingly, it argues that speech is distorted when it does not align with the subjective intent of the speaker, even when that intent is unconscious or unknown to him. It contends that a depth hermeneutical mode of deliberation is necessary to engage in genuine communicative action, and suggests a role for psychoanalytically informed rhetoric in deliberation. Finally, it offers a methodological sketch of what a depth hermeneutical approach might look like when applied not only toward understanding one’s interlocutor, but also toward offering justificatory arguments vis-à-vis the shared ethical traditions and discourses that give legitimacy to political action. It suggests we need to read between the lines of tradition to ensure that minority discourses are not overshadowed, just as we need to look beneath the explicit claims of our interlocutors if we wish to understand them.
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