Deliberative Development

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Deliberative Development

A concept developed by Dale Carrico in the Amor Mundi blog, at


Comment 1

"The advocacy of deliberative development is exactly as central to my own version of technoprogressive developmental politics as is the advocacy of sustainable development. For one thing, deliberative development demands highly transparent, generously funded processes of consensus science and invention coupled with a scientifically literate professional policy apparatus to assess risks, costs, and benefits and advise our elected representatives as they regulate and fund research and development to promote general welfare.

But this is only half of what a truly technoprogressive advocacy of deliberative development entails (of course, given the devastating debasement of consensus science under the Bush Administration a focus on this half makes a lot of sense at the moment). The other half of deliberative development is a commitment to enrich and democratize the terrain of policy analysis. This effort might well involve the use of digital networked media to engage citizens more directly in the assessment of alternate science and technology initiatives, perhaps to use social software to re-invigorate the concept of citizen juries on developmental questions, to create extensive occasions for citizens to testify to their own sense of technodevelopmental costs, risks, benfits, and problems, and, perhaps most promising of all, to implement peer-to-peer models of research over customary corporate-militarist models wherever possible. Such a commitment also demands, in my view, the promotion of scientific literacy and critical thinking skills for all citizens through a stakeholder grant in lifelong education and training, as well as universal access to networked information and communication technologies as well as to dependable sources of information from consensus science and the most representative possible diversity of stakeholder positions on policy questions at issue. Eventually, the commitment might also provide a rationale for the public subsidization of some consensual prosthetic or neuroceutical enhancements of memory, concentration, or temper.

In general, I think that what are sometimes broadly conceived as "top-down" and "bottom-up" approaches to good governance are both indispensable to the facilitation of progressive and technoprogressive developmental outcomes. I have noticed that this kind of bifocal perspective on developmental politics comes up again and again in my own technoprogressive formulations. And so, for example, I advocate world federalism and peer-to-peer democratization at once and as part of a single technoprogressive vision of global governance. I realize that each lens of such a bifocal approach has its own palpable dangers and terrors to display. Some progressives are wary of threats to social justice and democracy from especially one direction, others from another.

But I think we should be careful not to fetishize only one mode of governance as the more properly or more essentially democratic one over the other. A fetishization of "top-down" implementations of progressive visions facilitated their perversion in state-capitalist models all through the twentieth century, for example, while the current overcompensatory fetishization of "bottom-up" implementations renders the contemporary left imaginary -- and especially the technocentric left -- deeply vulnerable in my view to appropriation by libertarian ideology and its always ultimately conservative, facile self-congratulatory fables of "spontaneous order."

And so, yes, I really do think that deference to the advice of credentialed experts is indispensable to good governance and certainly to technoprogressive governance. The problem these days isn't the administrative recourse to scientific and professional expertise; it is the substitution of public relations and partisan calculus for the recommendations of consensus scientists and other professionals.

Certainly, I keenly grasp the vulnerability to anti-democratic elitism in any "rule of experts." But many things count as democratic within their proper bounds that are vulnerable nonetheless to misuses that render them anti-democratic at their extremes (what passes for "free markets" provides an obvious example). I was recently reminded that Bakunin made a useful distinction between being an authority and being in authority that seems relevant here."


Comment 2

"That phrase, "deliberative development," may conjure up the facile and fussy image of "progress" by plan or by committee meeting, a vision of a domesticated development smoothed, controlled, and constrained by experts. But the fact is that technodevelopmental social struggle releases inherently unpredictable forces into the world. It is ineradicably dynamic, interminably contentious, ideally open... So just what do I mean by deliberative development after all?

For one thing, deliberative development would indeed involve highly transparent, generously funded processes of consensus science coupled with a scientifically literate professional policy apparatus to assess risks, costs, and benefits and advise our elected representatives as they struggle to do their job to regulate, study, and fund research and development to promote general welfare. In practice, this would inevitably amount to proliferating committee meetings and inspection tours and licensing standards and granting bodies and blue-ribbon panels and published conference proceedings and impact studies and public hearings and all the rest. I happen to like nice social workers and dedicated public servants and credentialized do-gooders as a type, and I pine for a civilization in which their indispensable work is generally more appreciated than demeaned, and so this is not a vision that inspires in me the dread and disgust that will have overcome many a (self-described) "rugged" "no-nonsense" critic at this point in my account.

But I do want to insist that, even for me, the real force of any such ramifying procedural elaboration must be the deeper democratization rather than any quixotic domestication of technodevelopmental social struggle. The object will be to anticipate and document technodevelopmental outcomes in their variety on the multiple, contending stakeholders to that development, and hence to give those stakeholders a voice in articulating the form developments take from moment to moment, to better ensure that the costs, risks, and benefits of technoscience are as fairly shared as may be by all of those stakeholders on their own terms." (

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