Do transparency and publicity have the power to civilise politics? In deliberative democratic theory this is a common claim. Publicity, it is argued, forces actors to switch from market-style bargaining to a behaviour more appropriate for the political sphere, where the proper way of reaching agreement is by convincing others using public-spirited arguments. Daniel Naurin has conducted the first comprehensive analysis and test of the theory of publicity's civilising effect. The theory is tested on business lobbyists – presumably the most market-oriented actors in politics – acting on different arenas characterised by varying degrees of transparency and publicity. Innovative scenario-interviews with lobbying consultants in Brussels and in Stockholm are compared and contrasted with a unique sample of previously confidential lobbying letters. The results are both disappointing and encouraging to deliberative democratic theorists. While the positive force of publicity seems to be overrated, it is found that even behind closed doors business lobbyists must adapt to the norms of the forum.
I have a prediction…in the next couple of years Deliberation Behind Closed Doors will rise fast in the Social Science Citation Index because no-one in the field working on publicity and deliberative democratic theory can ignore this work.
This research has a striking and unusual challenge to current siren calls which see transparency in public policy making as an unqualified good, and could in time become a citation classic.
This book makes a refreshingly empirical contribution to discussions of the European Union and its democratic deficit, specifically on the possible role of increased transparency in alleviating the latter. Naurin rightly challenges us to think about transparency and its effects – to ‘take transparency seriously’ rather than merely assume its panacea-like effects for European Union democracy and legitimacy. With this in mind, Naurin’s work focuses on investigating what deliberative democracy theorists label the civilizing effect of publicity.
[...] The book is an excellent read. It is not prohibitively expensive and would be useful to scholars dealing with the issues of transparency and interest groups.