Public participation in environmental decisionmaking has become an accepted part of Western societies over the last three decades. Whereas on a simple level every democratic process based on aggregating individual preferences contains an element of public participation, the literature on discursive democracy emphasises instead a more subtle, rich, and intense social process of deliberation. In this model, the spectrum of understandings, interests, and values expressed in different discourses is explored in detail by participants before a decision is reached. Although within an idealised model of discursive democracy such deliberations would involve every member of society potentially affected by the issue under discussion, a range of constraints mean that in practice this ideal model can only be approximated by discussions held in various forms of 'minipublics', which contain in most cases only a tiny proportion of the relevant community-for example, citizens' juries and consensus conferences. We identify three problem areas concerning the choice of participants in such 'minipublics', which we call the 'recruitment problem' (how individual participants are chosen to take part), the 'composition problem' (what the final composition of the minipublic is), and the,mandate problem' (what role each of the participants assumes within the process). We suggest that most studies have not explicitly distinguished these elements, and consequently the rationale for why the results of such processes should be considered legitimate in either an advisory or a decisionmaking capacity is often unclear. We review the limitations of traditional recruitment methods and suggest a new alternative we consider appropriate for discursive processes-utilising Q methodology as a step in developing a purposive sampling frame for the recruitment phase. Although this approach is not without problems, we suggest that it could potentially offer a better basis on which to address the recruitment problem for those processes seeking to approximate discursively democratic ideals.
- DEMOCRATIC DELIBERATION