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Abstract

Even though culture is seen as an important aspect of deliberation, empirical research on culture’s effects on deliberation is almost completely absent. This paper offers one of the first systematic empirical studies of cultural underpinnings on deliberation. It explores two conceptions of culture, namely ‘holistic’ vs. ‘contextual’. In the ‘holistic’ approach, culture is assumed to be a constant, while the ‘contextual’ approach assumes adaptive rationality of actors to different contexts. As an extension of the ‘contextual’ approach, this paper also explores the effects of different compositions of cultural groups on the quality of deliberation. The effects of the two approaches are evaluated by linking linguistic groups in the committee and plenary debates of the Swiss parliament to a broad variety of deliberative standards. The findings reveal that linguistic groups do not differ much in their deliberative behaviour, which defies ‘holistic’ approaches to culture. Rather, the results underline that speech culture is highly context-driven, which is indicative of a ‘contextual’ approach to culture. However, culture still plays a role, but mainly in the context of group composition: the proportion of minority-language speakers affects several deliberative indicators such as respect, common good orientation and clarifying questions.

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