Can deliberative minipublics address the cognitive challenges of democratic citizenship?

Mark E. Warren, John Gastil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Democracy asks its citizens to make informed judgments about collective matters. Given the scale and complexity of modern polities, however, even the most attentive citizens cannot engage knowledgeably with most of the collective decisions that affect them. For this reason, democratic theorists increasingly conceptualize democratic systems as requiring divisions of cognitive labor, in which citizens trust others to make decisions on their behalf. Modern democracies have long relied on such trustees, yet institutional supports for good trust decisions by citizens are often weak or missing. We argue that deliberative minipublics can serve as trusted information proxies that help citizens make the most of their scarce cognitive resources. These kinds of trustees cannot close the gap between the demands of complex societies and citizens' capacities for informed judgment, but they may be able to narrow it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)562-574
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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