Political Communication and Deliberation Highly Recommended

Bibliographic Details:

John Gastil. Sage Publications, 2008.


Political Communication and Deliberation takes a unique approach to the field of political communication by viewing key concepts and research through the lens of deliberative democratic theory. This is the first text to argue that communication is central to democratic self-governance primarily because of its potential to facilitate public deliberation. Thus, it offers political communication instructors a new perspective on familiar topics, and it provides those teaching courses on political deliberation with their first central textbook. This text offers students practical theory and experience, teaching them skills and giving them a more direct understanding of the various subtopics in public communication.


The act of deliberation is the act of reflecting carefully on a matter and weighing the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions to a problem. It aims to arrive at a decision or judgment based not only on facts and data but also on values, emotions, and other less technical considerations. Though a solitary individual can deliberate, it more commonly means making decisions together, as a small group, an organization, or a nation.

A dedicated Web site at www.ideliberate.org inventories everything that might be useful for instructors using Political Communication and Deliberation in their courses. Syllabi suggestions show how to use the book when teaching on a semester – or a quarter-long course, as well as a set of classroom exercises and larger projects that have been used in previous courses. Also, a wiki and forum let instructors exchange teaching ideas, links, and new content to supplement each chapter.

Robert Asen:

"Political Communication and Deliberation is a groundbreaking volume. It advances our theorizing about deliberation, analyzes deliberative practices in a wide range of venues, and offers prescriptions for improving our democracy."

Francesca Polletta:

"In this remarkable book, Gastil shows how the concept of deliberation can be used to understand and evaluate the functioning of diverse political institutions, from elections to the media. With a superb command of diverse literatures, along with his characteristic good sense and wit, Gastil makes clear just how important talk is to a democratic society. Chock full of novel insights into political dynamics that we often take for granted, Political Communication and Deliberation will be of interest to both fledgling and seasoned students of politics."

Martín Carcasson:

"Professor Gastil has been a leading voice in the deliberative democracy movement for the last 15 years, and with this book he has created a wonderful resource that adeptly captures the broad, valuable work being done both inside and outside academia concerning public deliberation and political communication. I hope this book will help spark a whole new generation of courses focused on this critical topic."

Sharon E. Jarvis:

"Political Communication and Deliberation is a thorough, thoughtful, readable, accessible, and smart book. Gastil's analyses and cases will surely spark deliberation. It is a gift to citizens, students, scholarly inquiry and the future of our democratic system."

About the Author 

John Gastil is a Professor in the Departments of Communication and Political Science at the University of Washington, where he specializes in political deliberation and group decision making. Prior to joining the University of Washington, he worked for three years at the University of New Mexico Institute for Public Policy, where he conducted public opinion survey research and convened citizen conferences. Gastil received his communication Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994 and his B.A. in political science from Swarthmore College in 1989.

Gastil is the co-editor, with Peter Levine, of The Deliberative Democracy Handbook: Strategies for Effective Civic Engagement in the Twenty-First Century (Jossey-Bass, 2005). This book brings together the experiences of activists, non-profit organization leaders, and scholars to understand how the most promising and innovative methods of citizen deliberation can fit into existing political cultures and institutions. In 2000, he published By Popular Demand: Revitalizing Representative Democracy through Deliberative Elections (University of California). This book built on his previous work by showing how small group discussions can be integrated into the electoral process and public institutions. In 1993, Gastil published Democracy in Small Groups: Participation, Decision Making, and Communication (New Society Publishers), which clarified what it means for a group to be democratic and showed what obstacles groups face when trying to make decisions democratically. Gastil’s scholarly articles have appeared in Communication Theory, Harvard Law Review, Human Communication Research, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Journal of Politics, Policy Studies Journal, Political Communication, Small Group Research, and other journals.

For more information about John Gastil, visit the author's homepage at http://faculty.washington.edu/jgastil/.

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