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Social Sciences - Applied Ethics & Social Responsibility | The Biotechnology Debate

The Biotechnology Debate

Democracy in the Face of Intractable Disagreement

Bovenkerk, Bernice

2012, XX, 336 p.

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  • Bridges the gap between theory and practice, whereas previous books have focussed only on deliberative theory or the practice of public deliberation
  • Not only relevant for academic scholars, but also for members of NGO’s and government departments, that are involved in organizing public deliberations
  • Argues that that deliberative practices can deal better with the existence of intractable disagreement than liberal democratic practices

This book grounds deliberative democratic theory in a more refined understanding of deliberative practice, in particular when dealing with intractable moral disagreement regarding novel technologies. While there is an ongoing, vibrant debate about the theoretical merits of deliberative democracy on the one hand, and more recently, empirical studies of specific deliberative exercises have been carried out, these two discussions fail to speak to one another.

Debates about animal and plant biotechnology are examined as a paradigmatic case for intractable disagreement in today’s pluralistic societies. This examination reveals that the disagreements in this debate are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional and can often be traced to fundamental disagreements about values or worldviews.

“One of the acute insights to emerge from this examination is that deliberation can serve different purposes vis-à-vis different types of problem.  In the case of deeply unstructured problems, like the modern biotechnology debate, the aim of inclusion is more appropriate than the aim of consensus. This book highlights the importance of political culture and broader institutional settings in shaping the capacity and propensity of citizens to engage in deliberation and the degree to which governments are prepared to relinquish authority to deliberative mini-publics."

Robyn Eckersley, University of Melbourne, Australia

Content Level » Research

Keywords » Animal biotechnology - Biotechnology debate - Consensus conferences - Deliberative democratic theory - Novel technologies - deliberative democracy - plant biotechnology - public deliberation

Related subjects » Animal Sciences - Applied Ethics & Social Responsibility - Environmental Engineering and Physics - Political Science - Social Sciences

Table of contents 

1. Introduction

2. Biotechnology: An Anatomy of the Debate

3. Constraining or Enabling Dialogue?

4. Deliberative Democracy and its Limits

5. Committees: The Politics of Containment

6. Consensus Conferences: The Politics of Containment

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