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Abstract

Supporters of deliberative democracy must work through complex tradeoffs if we hope to realize the full potential of empowered civic engagement in which citizens employ multiple forms of action and change. In order to sustain citizens’ interest, time, and resources in creating a robust civic infrastructure, we need to engage them in more highly empowered forms of civic engagement than is now typical of many deliberative initiatives. Our field’s strong emphasis on temporary public consultations diverts a disproportionate amount of time, intellectual capital, and other resources from efforts to improve the ability of citizens and local communities to have stronger, more active, and direct roles in shaping their collective futures. One set of choices facing us centers on tensions between reformism and more fundamental, even revolutionary changes to democratic politics. Other key tensions are rooted in aspirations for deliberative democracy to serve as both an impartial resource and as a catalyst for action.

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