Democracy, Agony, and Rupture: A Critique of Climate Citizens’ Assemblies

Paper by Amanda Machin: “Stymied by preoccupation with short-term interests of individualist consumers, democratic institutions seem unable to generate sustained political commitment for tackling climate change. The citizens’ assembly (CA) is promoted as an important tool in combatting this “democratic myopia.” The aim of a CA is to bring together a representative group of citizens and experts from diverse backgrounds to exchange their different insights and perspectives on a complex issue. By providing the opportunity for inclusive democratic deliberation, the CA is expected to educate citizens, stimulate awareness of complex issues, and produce enlightened and legitimate policy recommendations. However, critical voices warn about the simplified and celebratory commentary surrounding the CA. Informed by agonistic and radical democratic theory, this paper elaborates on a particular concern, which is the orientation toward consensus in the CA. The paper points to the importance of disagreement in the form of both agony (from inside) and rupture (from outside) that, it is argued, is crucial for a democratic, engaging, passionate, creative, and representative sustainability politics…(More)”.