Mary (Molly) Scudder
Beyond Empathy and Inclusion: The Challenge of Listening in Democratic Deliberation considers how to improve democracy under the politically divided conditions we currently face. The book argues that while democracy does not require that citizens reach an agreement, it does require that they listen to one another. The book goes on to offer a systematic theory of listening acts to explain the democratic force of listening. Modeled after speech act theory, my listening act theory shows how we do something in listening, independent of the outcomes of listening. In listening to our fellow citizens, we recognize their moral equality of voice. Being heard by our fellow citizens is what ensures we have a say in the laws to which we are held.
The book offers a realistic view of listening, one that does not assume it will always produce empathy or even understanding. Listening is not the answer to all of our problems. In fact, listening can even produce certain undemocratic effects. The book argues that despite these challenges and risks, listening is a key responsibility of democratic citizenship. It also tackles questions regarding the limits of toleration in a democratic society. Do we owe listening even to democracy’s enemies? The book shows how listening can be used defensively, to protect against threats to democracy.
The democratic listening this book prescribes is admittedly hard, especially in pluralistic societies. This volume investigates how to motivate citizens to listen seriously, attentively, and humbly even to those with whom they disagree.
Out in paperback Fall 2023!