Deliberation in Lyttelton: Deliberative Democratic Theory in Action: A community Group responds to Energy and Climate issues
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The aim of this thesis is to explore the under-studied area of deliberative democratic politics at the local level, while adding to the literature on deliberative theory itself. Empirical research was conducted through the qualitative tools of participant observation in Project Lyttelton’s Energy Matters Workshop and in-depth interviews with Project Lyttelton members, workshop participants and local government representatives. A comparative analysis was also undertaken between two locally focussed initiatives looking at citizen engagement and democracy in relation to climate change. The findings of this research suggest that Project Lyttelton’s Energy Matters Workshop answers the call for a deliberative approach through its use of the key institutional features of deliberative democratic processes. The research findings also show that local deliberative initiatives may not be about reaching consensus or agreement in relation to a particular issue such as climate change. Rather, they may be focused on building up a network of citizens that discuss new ideas, build awareness, invigorate public engagement, highlight shared interests and motivate new initiatives. However, the research data also draws attention to compelling, and as yet unanswered questions, about just what conditions are needed for local deliberation to affect public policy and climate change decision-making, how deliberative practices could be integrated within government structures themselves, how the current political framework (and context) could act as a spur to those at the local level, and how local participation and deliberation could have a voice in the largely international climate change arena. This research adds to the scholarship on deliberative theory by examining what deliberation looks like at the local level, while providing further empirical research for deliberative theory itself.