Between Substance and Procedure:
Two Traditions in Deliberative Democratic Theory

Savin N.Yu.,

Senior Lecturer at the School of Integrated Communications, Faculty of Communications, Media, and Design, National Research University Higher School of Economics,

elibrary_id: 819141 | ORCID: 0000-0002-4285-750X | RESEARCHER_ID: K-5893-2015

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2019.04.03
For citation:

Savin N.Yu. Between Substance and Procedure: Two Traditions in Deliberative Democratic Theory. – Polis. Political Studies. 2019. No. 4. P. 26-39. (In Russ.).

The article was prepared with the support of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Autonomous Non-Profit Organization “Expert Institute of Social Research” (Grant No. 19-011-31546)


There is growing criticism of deliberative democracy from agonistic positions, which makes it relevant to revitalize Rawls and Habermas’ debate on the concept of the political. Habermas’ position has become dominant in deliberative democracy: the majority of both empirical and theoretical studies rely on the proceduralist, rather than on substantionalist tradition. In contrast with Rawls, Habermas simply states that political process is not limited by the political system and does not articulate the idea of the political. This paper promotes the concept that substantialist tradition is more promising for political theory due to the idea of the political. To justify this idea we briefly discuss both projects, sum up the Rawls-Habermas debate, and then scrutinize the concept of politics in both approaches. The paper shows that political liberalism focuses on the conditions of deliberation, rather than on philosophical construction of the deliberation rules as Habermas does. Rawls differentiates the metaphysical and the political as autonomous modes of thinking, acknowledging that the latter contains its own epistemic and normative claims. At the same time Rawls’ concept of the political needs to be partly reconsidered. Political liberalism should acknowledge the dyadic nature of politics. One the one side, legitimate doctrines politically subordinate illegitimate doctrines. On the other side, political tensions are permanently produced by the co-existence of various legitimate doctrines. This correction strengthens Rawls’ arguments in his debate with Habermas and enriches deliberative democracy by the topics of violence, power and freedom, which are central to political theory. 

deliberative democracy, discourse ethics, political liberalism, concept of the political, John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas, political theory.


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Content No. 4, 2019

See also:

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