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John Morison

The Democratic Dynamics of Government Consultations: Speaking Freely and Listening Properly

There is a growing use of consultation and e-consultation procedures by governments world-wide. This paper seeks to examine the role of consultation as part of a new technology of government. Consultation on policy development can reinvigorate democratic engagement but often it can silence views through a sort of participatory disempowerment. Consultation around service delivery can improve services or it can be used to detach public services from an integrated public sector and loosen the democratic anchorage of the public service within the state. The paper develops a governmentality perspective interrogating what participation, democratic engagement and free speech mean in this context, and how ideas of publicness here are constructed, managed and controlled.

The focus here is on the nature of consultation, its relationship to ideas of free speech and speaking freely, and its potential to empower subaltern counterpublics which can formulate oppositional interpretations and urge alternative conclusions. The aim of the paper is to develop an idea of the democratic adequacy of the consultation process and draw out a sense of how democratic engagement here can be structured – for good or ill.


John Morison is Professor of Jurisprudence in the School of Law at the Queen’s University of Belfast, UK. A former Head of School his main research interests are in the area of legal theory, and particularly democracy and the idea of the public. He is the author or editor of half a dozen books and around 100 hundred chapters and articles. Recent publications include “The Rise of the Digital Citizen” (2014); “Assessing the Real World of Public Consultation” (2011); and “Gov 2.0: Towards a User Generated State” MLR (2010) 73(4) 551-577.

He is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and has been involved in many national and international research projects including, currently, a Leverhulme Interdisciplinary Network on Cybersecurity and Society.


Sidansvarig: Christine Forssell|Sidan uppdaterades: 2015-06-30

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