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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Deliberation in anarchy Tomm, Jonathan Michael


How do cooperative rules and agreements emerge in anarchical situations of political conflict between or within states? This dissertation responds to this question by developing an innovative theory of the role that deliberation plays in the emergence of rule-based cooperation under anarchy. “Deliberation” refers to a kind of political talk in which participants attempt to persuade each other on the basis of convincing reasons. Deliberation promises to be an important vehicle through which political opponents make and follow cooperative rules together. The problem, however, is that because deliberation has primarily been studied in the context of strong, liberal-democratic states, we do not yet have an adequate understanding of how it can be effective under more anarchical conditions. Without the security provided by strong institutions and relatively thick “lifeworlds” of shared culture and norms, deliberative responses to politics are more likely to be scuttled by mistrust and mutual suspicion. The theory developed here addresses this challenge by highlighting and investigating the often-overlooked relational effects of deliberation. Deliberation is not just about the content of the reasons political opponents offer one another. It is also about the fact that they are offering reasons at all, and about what that implies for the kind of actions they can expect from each other. Most importantly, deliberation can be a way for interlocutors to demonstrate their accountability to each other: their willingness to uphold, and count on others to uphold, shared standards of behaviour. In this way deliberation can help to generate the bonds of trust and mutually acknowledged commitment that political opponents need in order to act on shared rules and understandings. In developing this theory, the dissertation offers new conceptual tools for understanding how productive politics, based on negotiation, persuasion, and shared rules, can get a toehold even under difficult conditions.

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