Empathy and Democracy

Empathy and Democracy: Feeling, Thinking, and Deliberation

Michael E. Morrell
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/j.ctt7v16x
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  • Book Info
    Empathy and Democracy
    Book Description:

    Democracy harbors within it fundamental tensions between the ideal of giving everyone equal consideration and the reality of having to make legitimate, binding collective decisions. Democracies have granted political rights to more groups of people, but formal rights have not always guaranteed equal consideration or democratic legitimacy. It is Michael Morrell’s argument in this book that empathy plays a crucial role in enabling democratic deliberation to function the way it should. Drawing on empirical studies of empathy, including his own, Morrell offers a “process model of empathy” that incorporates both affect and cognition. He shows how this model can help democratic theorists who emphasize the importance of deliberation answer their critics.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05514-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 THE DEMOCRATIC PROMISE
    (pp. 1-17)

    There is a promise inherent in democracy: before a society makes decisions that it will use its collective power to enforce, it will give equal consideration to everyone in the community. The development of collective decision-making institutions that take into consideration a wider range of interests did not begin with the rise of modern democracies. Ancient Athens, the ancient republics of India (Thapar 1966, 50–54), the Roman Republic, the Norseting, and the Iroquois Confederation, to name some examples, represent moments in history where the demarcation of those who could have a voice in collective decisions, and thus demand...

  5. 2 THE DELIBERATIVE TURN IN DEMOCRATIC THEORY
    (pp. 18-38)

    For the past several decades, democratic theory has taken a deliberative turn, and yet, as Samuel Freeman notes, “There is no settled and commonly accepted account of the central features of a deliberative democracy among political scientists and theorists” (2000, 373). In order to recognize why deliberative democracy ought to take affect and empathy more seriously, we need to have a general understanding of how theorists conceptualize deliberation. In spite of various disagreements, I distinguish at the most general level between two major strands of deliberative theory. The first emphasizes deliberation’s contribution to moreinformedandreflectivepolitical decisions, and...

  6. 3 THE ELUSIVE CONCEPT OF EMPATHY
    (pp. 39-66)

    As Nancy Eisenberg and Janet Strayer explain, “Because of its wide-ranging application, the notion of empathy is, and always has been, a broad, somewhat slippery concept—one that has provoked considerable speculation, excitement, and confusion” (1987, 3). Jonathan Levy goes even further to state that the “wordempathyhas been troublesome since it entered the language of psychology and psychiatry” (1997, 179; emphasis in original). The slippery and troublesome nature of the term “empathy” becomes apparent if we even briefly peruse some of its uses by scholars and in everyday speech. Depending upon the context of the statement, it can...

  7. 4 EMPATHY IN DELIBERATIVE THEORY
    (pp. 67-100)

    Most deliberative theorists pay scant specific attention to empathy, and while using the process model of empathy reveals that this silence is not as pervasive as it may seem on the surface, their theories still miss some of empathy’s important contributions. In order for theories of deliberative democracy to address the tension between equal consideration and legitimacy, we must supplement them by developing a fuller account of the role of empathy by addressing the role of affect in deliberation. To establish the warrant for my position, I want to return to the various theories of deliberative democracy and clarify the...

  8. 5 EMPATHY’S IMPORTANCE— THE EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE
    (pp. 101-128)

    We now have a model of the empathic process that allows us to discuss the various aspects of empathy in a more complete way, but I have yet to make the case that such an account is vital to our understanding of deliberative democracy. There are both empirical and theoretical reasons why I believe that the process model of empathy I have defended is necessary for establishing a persuasive case for deliberative democracy. My first argument is that empirical research indicates that a clear conception of empathy is absolutely necessary for a theory of deliberative democracy to address the issues...

  9. 6 DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY AND ITS CRITICS
    (pp. 129-157)

    The empirical evidence indicates that the process of empathy is necessary if deliberative democracy is going to function as conceived in the core deliberative theories. Without empathizing citizens, deliberative democracy will likely be no more than a talkative form of aggregative democracy. Yet there is an alternative, further-reaching conclusion suggested by this evidence: constructing a theory of deliberative democracy with the process model of empathy in view requires a shift in our thinking about the purpose of deliberation and its connection to democratic legitimacy. Deliberation is necessary to move closer to a more equal consideration of all citizens in a...

  10. 7 EMPATHY AND DEMOCRACY
    (pp. 158-196)

    Democracy needs the process of empathy. At the end of Chapter 5 I argued that deliberative theories, in order to address the empirical evidence, had to take the empathic process more seriously. The theoretical critiques surveyed in the previous chapter, though, make even more serious claims about the viability of deliberative democracy. The most persuasive way to answer those claims is to adopt a new model of deliberation that gives empathy a central place in democracy. Even more important, adopting a model of deliberative democracy that incorporates the process of empathy will allow me to demonstrate how democracy can make...

  11. REFERENCES
    (pp. 197-210)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 211-222)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-223)