My research in political theory deals with conceptualisations of democratic legitimacy. I particularly focus on deliberative democracy and consider the role of society-wide argumentative exchanges for democratic quality. These theoretical enquiries are complemented by empirical studies that measure political systems' deliberative quality and assess the impacts and contributions of deliberation in democratic policy-making.
Theoretical and empirical research should complement each other and normative theorising must do justice to ever changing societal contexts. Determining the precise relationship of theoretical and empirical findings poses serious challenges. I am applying philosophy of science-concepts to address these challenges.
Theories of political legitimacy
Theoretical and empirical research on deliberative systems
Philosophy of science
Measurement of deliberative quality
Critical theory with a focus on Jürgen Habermas
Political philosophy of liberalism, Kantianism, and proceduralism
Digitalization-induced challenges for democratic societies
In recent years, Western democracies’ legitimacy has been heavily under attack. On the one hand, declining public support and rising citizen distrust or apathy vis-à-vis representative democratic institutions point towards peoples’ estrangement from political elites. In consequence, many scholars demand to strengthen peoples’ voice and to implement more means for bottom-up participation. At the same time, increasing political complexity is associated with the rise populist and post-truth politics. These developments inspired scholars to propose “expertocratic” models of democratic governance and to strengthen the role of experts in political decision-making.
The book outlines a 'genuinely democratic' alternative to such expertocratic reform proposals that builds on proceduralist political philosophy. Proceduralist political philosophers argue that democratic legitimacy results not from expertise or from the quality of political outcomes, but solely from including all affected citizens in democratic decision-making. So far, there is no comprehensive account of proceduralist democracy that combines and integrates political philosophy and institutional design perspectives. The book bridges the gap between political philosophy and institutional design-questions and provides an accessible discussion of proceduralism from the perspective of political philosophy, theory, and political science.
In a nutshell, I argue that we should proceduralism's ideals into practice! To this aim, we must 'democratise' not only political decision-making, but also the design of institutions - and make political norms and institutions a subject of citizen deliberation and contestation.
The book will be published in Emerald's 'Politics & Public Policy' series
Democratic deliberation is not only relevant for democratic theorists. Increasingly, measures of democracy try to integrate this fluid and emergent phenomenon and attempt to examine the deliberative performance of states. Up until now, there is no comprehensive approach that measures not only the quality within deliberative fora, but also the connection between them and their integration in the political system as a whole.
Based on conceptualisations of systemic deliberative theory (Habermas, Dryzek, Mansbridge), the research project fills this gap and combines deliberative theory and the measurement of deliberation to develop an instrument for assessing and comparing nation states’ deliberative quality.
Project-related publications and presentations
**Fleuß, D. & Helbig, K. (2020): Measuring Nation States' Deliberative Quality: Systematic Challenges, Methodological Pitfalls, and Strategies for Upscaling the Measurement of Deliberation. In: Political Studies. (online first)
**Esau, K., Fleuß, D., & Nienhaus, S.-M. (2020): Different Deliberative Arenas, Different Deliberative Quality? Using a Systemic Framework to Evaluate Online Deliberations on Immigration Policy in Germany. Policy & Internet, Special Issue “Political Online Participation and its Effects” (online first).
**Fleuß, D., Helbig, K. & Schaal, G.S. (2018): “Four Parameters for Measuring Democratic Deliberation: Theoretical and Methodological Challenges and How to Respond.” In: Politics and Governance,6(1), 11-21. http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v6i1.1199
Fleuß, D. (2019): “Zur Balance von Transparenz und Verborgenheit: das komplementäre Verhältnis von öffentlicher und nicht- öffentlicher Kommunikation in Jürgen Habermas‘ Demokratietheorie.” [Balancing Transparency and Secrecy. The Relationship Between Public and Non-Public Communication in Habermas’s Democratic Theory.] In: „Staat und Geheimnis – Der Kampf um die (Un)Sichtbarkeit der Macht“. (Ed.: Jörn Knobloch). Baden-Baden: Nomos, 115-140. https://doi.org/10.5771/9783845299952-115
Fleuß, D. & Schaal, G.S. (2018): The Integrity of Deliberative Procedures – A Research Agenda for Measuring Deliberative Quality with a Systemic Framework. Working paper, presented at IPSA World Congress 2018, Brisbane.
Fleuß, D. & Helbig, K. (2018): Measuring the Embeddedness of Democratic Innovations and Representative Democracy with a Systemic Framework. The degree of transmissions as an indicator for the problem-solving potential of democratic innovations. Working paper, presented at the ECPR Joint Sessions 2018, University of Nicosia.
"'Flows of Communication‘ in Deliberative Systems: A Theory-Driven Concept of Transmissions for Evaluating Democratic Innovations“ - Presentation, ECPR General Conference, Panel „Democratic Innovations and the Systems Turn“, Wroclaw, September 5, 2019.
"Let’s Talk About It: Reconciling Deliberative and Populist Analyses of Democratic Discourses“ - Presentation, ECPR General Conference, Panel „Deliberative Democracy and Populism“, Wroclaw, September 6, 2019. (with Saskia P. Ruth-Lovell)
"Assessing Transmissions: An Empirical Framework for Evaluating Democratic Innovations’ Impact on Collectively-Binding Decision-Making“ - Presentation, ECPR General Conference, Panel „Evaluating Democratic Innovations“, Wroclaw, 6. September 2019. (with Christoph Deppe)
“Evaluating Deliberative Procedures from a Systemic Perspective. Different Participatory Arenas, Different Deliberative Quality?” - Presentation, Workshop “Political Online Participation and its Effects: Theory, Measurement & Results”, Düsseldorf Institute for Internet and Democracy, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, November 20, 2018. (with Katharina Esau)
“Measuring Democratic Deliberation at the Macro Level: Addressing Conceptual and Methodological Challenges with a Systemic Framework” - Guestlecture, Leuphana-University Lüneburg, Centre for the Study of Democracy (ZDEMO), November 13, 2018.
2015: Research Assistant, Research Project “Wie zentral ist die Mitte? Mittelschichtsdiskurse und wohlfahrtsstaatlicher Politikwandel im internationalen Vergleich“ (Funding DFG, directed by Prof. Michael Haus, University of Heidelberg)
2014: Research Assistant, Research Project “Regulation and Self-Regulation” (Field of Focus 4 at the University of Heidelberg).
2012: Research Assistant, Research Project “Problemdiskurse in Städten” (Funding DFG, directed by Prof. Michael Haus, University of Heidelberg).
2008-2009: Research Assistant, Interdisciplinary Project “Human Dignity” (Institute for Philosophy at the University of Heidelberg).