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The paradox of deliberative democracy: The National Action Committee on the Status of Women and Canada's policy on reproductive technology


  • Éric Montpetit


  • Francesca Scala


  • Isabelle Fortier



This article explores the relationship between inclusive and deliberative social movement organisations (SMOs) and state authorities. Three perspectives are presented. The first perspective argues in favour of an autonomous public sphere, in which SMOs establish only indirect relations with state authorities. This perspective suggests that direct relations are unnecessary to exert influence on policy choices. In contrast, the second perspective advocates an inclusive state, invested with SMOs. While direct cooperation guarantees policy influence, it does not necessarily lead to co-optation on the part of SMOs. The third perspective is primarily concerned with the impact of deliberative and strategic ideas and practices on power relations within SMOs. It argues that state authorities have expectations toward the public sphere that sometimes feed into the tension within SMOs between the proponents of deliberation and those in favour of strategic action. When this organisational strife reaches a critical point, the capacity of a SMO to contribute to both deliberation and policy-making are seriously undermined. Our empirical analysis of the contribution of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) on the issue of assisted reproductive technology (ART) in Canada during a period of 15 years provides strong support for this third perspective.

Suggested Citation

  • Éric Montpetit & Francesca Scala & Isabelle Fortier, 2004. "The paradox of deliberative democracy: The National Action Committee on the Status of Women and Canada's policy on reproductive technology," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 37(2), pages 137-157, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:policy:v:37:y:2004:i:2:p:137-157

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