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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 31 - 2024, No. 2

Recovering the Democratic Value of Public Discourse

, pages: 193-212

The decline of democracy in the US entails the surge of authoritarianism, ascendency of demagoguery, dispersal of the democratic majority, and weakening of public reason. Dissent, envisioned as a rhetorical practice of democratic deliberation, resists authoritarianism by advancing democratic values. Accordingly, this paper examines democracy as a minority voice, explores the deliberative capacity of dissent, and identifies the rhetorical properties of deliberation. The paper argues that dissent, in its fugitive aspect, is dispersed across an array of modest sites, guided by a deliberative ideal partially realised, and framed by democratic values. Dissent functions in this capacity as an itinerant, recurring source of democratic renewal on occasions of political crisis. It is an adaptation to structural constraints that provides a nurturing aspiration to prompt political agency, establish realistic expectations, and sustain vigilance. While the immediacy of the authoritarian threat and corresponding questions about the role of democratic communication are addressed in terms of the 2024 general election in the US, the democratic challenge in the US is indicative of the abiding immediacy of the authoritarian threat to other democracies and suggestive of deliberative adaptations for restoring the vitality of democratic communication and culture. Complacency in democratic theory and practice is counter-indicated.

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