Talking straight to youngsters in Hamburg


We are in a less affluent part from Hamburg for a two-day Workshop. About 70% of our 32 participants have a migration background. We talk for about 10 hours with two different groups of about 15 kids between 15 and 17 that volunteered to participate. Probably, they did not only volunteer because they were very interested to discuss democracy, discrimination, sex equality or homosexuality, but also because they were less motivated to follow their regular classes.

On both days and especially in the morning many kids have trouble to stay awake and to keep concentrated. Six or seven children do not say a word for two days, stare right through anybody and anything and show so little facial emotion, that we wonder whether they are under the influence of drugs. When we address them directly, trying to lure them into the discussion by asking about their thoughts, they show no sign of awareness what the discussion has been about, or even where they are. The youth workers that are present believe, or hope, it is mainly puberty. During most of the morning many kids of this age are simply not able to concentrate on anything.[1] The first couple of hours at school are usually lost time.

When we deliberate after lunch it seems as if many children have a form of ADHD. They just cannot sit still for more than 10 minutes. They wonder around the room to get food or drinks, to throw things away or to simply talk to somebody. It’s because it is the afternoon, the teachers explain. In the morning they are still asleep, in the afternoon they got to move.

We ask ourselves whether one should even try to teach before 11 AM at secondary schools. And is the kind of education offered by most (German) schools – sitting with 30 kids in a class room and listening to a teacher – up to modern pedagogical standards? This particular school already made important changes (instead of 8 AM they now start at 8.30 AM and new possibilities have been introduced for counseling and alternative ways of learning), but the entire system still has a long way to go.

The kids also have difficulty listening to each other. The groups are composed from four different classes. The students from each class sit together. When somebody is talking, the kids of other classes start exchanges among themselves over and over again. The ideas of people of other groups are not relevant to them, it seems. This behavior only stops a bit after we have announced to split up the groups, if necessary.

Listening to each other, respecting each other, learning from each other, are activities that need to be learned, and at best as early as possible. The same goes for the ability to think for oneself, formulate and to express opinions of oneself, to exchange with others in respectful ways, and to build up understanding and consensus instead of discord. Many kids in this school do not seem to have much training in, or experience with this.

Sex Equality

One of the topics we discuss is sex equality. In the discussion the general opinion, also that of the girls, is that women are less rational and organized than men. They are also less able to manage and to govern. Other than most women, men can make clear and harsh decisions. Men are more confident and have less fear to take responsibility. Therefore, they are also more dominant and convincing than women. When a man takes a decision, people listen and comply. His sole appearance and presence are worthy of respect. When a woman takes a decision, one knows there is still room for negotiation. Men are simply more respected. Men will also not take orders from women easily. The consensus is, that as a company, one wants to have a majority of men at the top taking decisions and doing the negotiations.

Connected to this, the feeling of those actively participating in the discussion is that there are professions that are typical female, particularly those related to caring und nursing. Concomitantly, there are archetypal male professions, especially those that have to do with building and engineering. Because women are more emotional, less rational and have fewer leadership abilities, it is also logical that women are way less represented at the top of private and public organizations, as well as in politics. This inequality does not constitute a problem in need of repairs, it is just the way it is. As long as the men are doing their job fine, there is no need to change anything. Women also do not want to get at top positions. Women should of course have the opportunity to become a bricklayer or a manager, but when they do not want to, as is obviously the case, they should not be forced into these professions and positions.

Most of these thoughts are also shared by the girls. Just one girl, the only one wearing a headscarf, protests violently. Remarkable are not just the opinions in itself, but the individualist or neo-liberal worldview underneath: the world as it is, is the result of free, personal decisions and choices. When there are no women at the top of organizations or in particular professions, then apparently women have made the choice not to be there. Sociological insights about the workings of socialization, discrimination and power are basically absent. As we noted in many other contexts before (for instance, in discussions on social inequality), pointing to these workings, nowadays does not define one as a sociologist, but as a socialist. And socialism, as we all know, is bad.

This hyper-individualism is illustrated by the responses the participants gave to the statements in the survey we previously asked the kids to fill in. A stunning 33% “totally agreed” and 23% “agreed” for instance with the statement “People are responsible for their own wellbeing”. Nobody answered not to agree at all, and only 7% “disagreed”. For the people thriving the most in the current social-economic constellation, it must be a relief to hear, that those at the bottom of our society mostly blame themselves for their disadvantaged position.

The other opinions expressed in the workshop were to a high extent also confirmed in the survey. One of the questions in this survey is, “There are professions which should only be done by men or women “. Of the 30 respondents 17% “totally agreed”, 23% “agreed”, 27% was undecided, 17% “disagreed” and 16% “totally disagreed”.

Nevertheless, 70% of the respondents “totally agreed” with the statement “Women should have the same rights as men”. Still, 20% “totally disagreed”.

Racism

One of topics we discussed in the context of discrimination is racism. Obviously, an important question to be answered here is whether there are any human “races” at all. Considering Germany’s past, one might expect that this issue is addressed sufficiently at German schools. Apparently not. The students that are most outspoken defend the position that different human races exist and that they have different qualities. They know about Darwin and natural selection and they believe that this selection process has also happened with humans. People living on the Equator have a dark skin because there is more sun. “Africans” run faster and jump higher by nature (why would that be?) and are consequently more successful in basketball. Any sociological explanation for the overrepresentation of particular groups in particular sports or other activities seems new for them. Luring in the background is all the time whether this “natural selection” has also caused other differences than the ones that are observable (skin, hair, eyes, height, or whatever). Are particular human races also more “intelligent” or do they have other “values”? There is an awareness that it is not appropriate to assume this, but the students that express themselves are not able to explain why this is the case.[2]

The mood of the discussion we find back in the replies to the survey question “Different racial groups have inherited different capacities“. 27% “totally agrees” and 17% “agrees” with this statement. Only 16% disagrees. 40% is indecisive.

Homosexuality

Another topic we addressed was homosexuality. Homophobia seems to be on the rise among youngsters, especially boys (see also here). Part of the explanation might be the growing uncertainty about being “a man”. To make clear one is a real man, boys feel the need to distance themselves from homosexuals that are considered to be “womanish”, “swishy” or “femme” (French men are, as we all know, sissies and namby-pambies) and so, weak.

The recent empirical study of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Verlorene Mitte: Feindliche Zustände (April 2019), also finds that in the cohort 16 to 30 years the aversion against homosexuality is double as high as in the cohort 30 to 60 (13% respectively 6%). Young people have comparable scores as the people older than 60 when they are asked whether they consider homosexuality “immoral” or whether they have feelings of “awkwardness” when they see homosexuals kissing in public (2019: 68, 72, 89). Men (11.3%) are also more often negative about homosexuals than women (8%) (2019: 89).

The opinions on homosexuality in our group were indeed not really positive, to say the least. 23% of the kids completely agreed and 10 % agreed with the statement “Homosexuality is an illness”. Two of the respondents (two boys) added a category “6” to stress that “completely agree” (5) was not strong enough to express their feelings. 27% did not know and 37% completely disagreed. 8 of the 20 boys were of the (strong) opinion that homosexuality was a disease, 6 disagreed and 6 were indecisive. 2 of the 10 girls also saw homosexuality as a disease, three did not know.

30% completely disagreed and 13% disagreed with the statement “A homosexual couple has the ability to raise children.” 20% was indecisive.

18% of the respondents completely agreed and 11% agreed with the statement “Homosexuality can be cured”. 46% completely disagreed.

 

Feedback: let’s meet again.

Did these adolescents like to deliberate on topics like democracy, sex equality, discrimination, racism and homosexuality? Despite their troubles to stay focused, to listen to each other and despite the awkwardness of some of the discussed topics, their feedback forms were rather positive. Often, we are afraid that our respondents are just awfully polite people, but these wonderful kids were not really polite. We appreciated their directness.

83% (completely) agreed with the statement „The most important points on each topic were dealt with in the group discussions“.

72% (completely) agreed with the statement “I’ve found that people with different views often had very good reasons for their views”.

67% (completely) agreed with the statement “I believe that I have developed a better understanding of some subjects”.

61% (completely) agreed with the statement “I believe that I have developed a better understanding of how certain topics are related”.

44% agreed and 28% „completely agreed“ with the statement „I would like to participate in a program like this again”. Only 2% gave a negative answer.

Consequently, when it comes to the motivation of our kids in Hamburg, there is much room to get in fruitful exchanges on fundamental themes. Considering some of the currently held positions, we should make use of this motivation.

 

*Thanks to Florentin Münstermann for his comments on an earlier version of this article and for his analysis of the survey.

Notes

[1] Young children are early birds, whereas children in their puberty only get awake late in the morning. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jul/01/wondering-why-you-cant-concentrate-it-might-be-your-body-clock

[2] “The popular classifications of race are based chiefly on skin color, with other relevant features including height, eyes, and hair. Though these physical differences may appear, on a superficial level, to be very dramatic, they are determined by only a minute portion of the genome: we as a species have been estimated to share 99.9% of our DNA with each other. The few differences that do exist reflect differences in environments and external factors, not core biology.” Chou, Vivian 2017 How Science and Genetics are Reshaping the Race Debate of the 21st Century April 17, 2017. Science in the News. Harvard University.


Emotions and Political Deliberation


Reading the title of this article might evoke pictures of people violently shouting at each other or bursting out into tears while pleading their cause in front of an audience. Whereas the first case will definitely be considered as a departure from democratic forms of public debate by most citizens, the latter could either be judged as an authentic expression of the intensity of one’s involvement in a topic (which – in a second step – could be seen as legitimate or illegitimate) or  merely as an attempt to manipulate the audience (which will hardly be considered legitimate by any reasonable citizen). Further contemplations on the connection between emotions and public deliberation might result in images of close-minded people (of all political directions and every level of education, by the way) vehemently denying those facts that would undermine their positions. Positions for instance about refugees, the Islam, capitalism, Europe’s influence in British politics, the corruption of the political system or corporate influence, climate change or gun violence in the United States.

If this is all what emotions inflict upon politics, there is no place for them in a democratic polity striving for political equality and social justice. Nobody could ever want a politics of “untutored passion” (Krause 2008, p. 6). Disqualifying emotions, then, is part of the standard view on deliberative democracy. Public debate ought to be calm, rational and dispassionate in order to fulfil its democratic functions: “The worry is that these affective modes of consciousness will cloud our reason and therefore impede the impartiality that is needed for sound moral judgment, equitable adjudication, and fair political deliberation“ (ibid., p. 1).

Before I address this concern and examine in what ways emotions actually benefit democratic politics, let me first briefly clarify my understanding of deliberative democracy. First of all, I am not interested in questions of democratic legitimacy. That means I put aside any considerations about how a political focus on discussion and debate could provide the normative base for democracy (for an instructive account cf. Benhabib 1996). My account on emotions and deliberation operates on a more practical level, concerned with questions of improving the inclusiveness of democratic deliberation. Unlike the position of Hans Blokland, then, who emphasise, at least in previous projects, the educative function of deliberation (cf. Blokland 2018a, 2018b), I follow a more encompassing view, combining deliberation’s educative aspect with the procedural element of reaching the best possible decision when faced with a political problem: “In the deliberative model democracy is a form of practical reason. Participants in the democratic process offer proposals for how best to solve problems or meet legitimate needs, and so on, and they present arguments through which they aim to persuade others to accept their proposals” (Young 2000, p. 22). Deliberation means “to weigh alternatives before choosing among them. It is to consider options carefully, balancing advantages and disadvantages, before deciding which is best. Deliberate actions are those that are not rash and hasty but rather intentional and purposeful […]“ (Hall 2007, p. 88). There is no doubt that this process has educative power (cf. Young 2000, p. 26; and Fishkin 2009, p. 119–150, for empirical evidence), but the more encompassing view allows for more far reaching conclusions and is closer to real-world political deliberations, which ultimately constitute the standard to be approached by my considerations.

 

Practical and Theoretical Insights on Emotions in Deliberation

Having clarified this framework, I can proceed by evaluating the claim that emotions inevitably obstruct public deliberation. I found evidence for the contrary in two different spheres of life: certain communicative practices associated with my work as a communications coach as well as the broad field of philosophy of emotions. The former might indeed count as pre-theoretic evidence, while the latter clearly has systematic explanatory power, especially where insights are applied to deliberative democratic theory.

As a communications coach I have experienced that directing one’s attention to emotions and needs is enormously helpful for resolving intra- as well as interpersonal conflicts. Construing emotionality as instances of “needs in danger” (or, for the sake of completeness albeit less prone to be conflictual, “needs fulfilled”) highlights their life-serving function, which is to provide us with information about how our environment interferes in our essential goals and projects. When needs are fulfilled, thus, we experience pleasant emotions like joy or gratitude, when needs are in danger, we experience urgent or distressing emotions like helplessness, fear or sadness. Insofar emotions reveal that something valuable is at risk (or – to the contrary – enhanced) they usually motivate adequate actions (or – in case of enhancement – the expression of joy or gratitude). Identifying and empathetically acknowledging emotions often are pivotal steps to resolve conflicts without loosing connection to oneself and one another. Demands are common, though, to approach conflicts rationally: to focus on the facts, don’t get too involved or let your emotions boil over, and so on. There is definitely some truth in these demands, although they are erroneous in a very important respect. It is never helpful to violently express one’s emotions. This violent mode, I assume, is the result not of acknowledging but instead of trying to suppress one’s emotionality, often for a considerable time. Approaching conflicts by disqualifying and ignoring emotions leads only to a fictitious rationality. I acknowledge that processes of emotional conflict resolution indeed require something that resembles rationality in some ways. That is what I meant by saying there is some truth in the demand for rationality. It requires concepts which I assume to actually lie behind the demand for rationality: calmness and mindfulness. Conditions which are the likely result of an empathetic and appreciative approach to emotionality in conflicts, at least according to the collective practical experience of my profession.

A sceptic might not be convinced by this practical and unscientific account. Or she might recognize that these considerations could be valid in the field of coaching or mediation but not in political discourse. I am not only a communications coach, though, but also a political theorist, so I have not exhausted my arguments yet. There is a certain strand in the philosophy of emotions that can be seen as a comprehensive theory underlying the practical approach: The cognitive-evaluative theory of emotions.

According to this theory emotions are cognitive processes, not states of mind or simply states of the body. These processes consist in assenting to a certain kind of judgement. That might sound a little odd, what does this mean? Assenting has the meaning of coming to a deep believe about the truth of something. In our case this something is a propositional judgement, propositional because it’s content can be expressed in a sentence. An example might help. The sentence “this friend of mine has gone forever” is the propositional judgement that we assent to in the case of grieving about the death of a beloved friend. When we encounter a bear in the forest we might assent to the judgement “I’m in a life threatening situation”, we experience fear directed to the dangerous object in front of us. Defining emotions this way might seem out of touch with real world experiences of emotions. That is true to some degree, but this analytical view is actually pretty helpful when we are faced with complex emotional dynamics that are difficult to understand. In these cases focusing on something seemingly odd like propositional judgements might help clarifying an emotions substructure and connections with other beliefs and values. To reconnect this understanding of emotions with everyday life experiences of emotionality I will add the point that these emotional processes are accompanied by bodily feelings and frequently by a vivid imagination, centred around the emotion’s object.

There would be much more to say about this theory, but this would actually go beyond the scope of this article. I will concentrate here on two other characteristics of of these judgements that are of special relevance for my argument. Firstly, they are directed towards something outside the individual’s mind. Emotions can aim at literally any perceivable object. Philosophers call this feature emotions’ intentionality. So, emotions are intentional insofar they are directed to an object. Grief is directed to a loss, fear towards anything that is dangerous, indignation to an instance of injustice. The emotion’s identity, what allows us to discriminate among several emotions, is constituted by the content of the judgement. It requires believing in a loss to experience grief, it requires perceiving something as threatening to experience fear and finally one must construe a situation as an instant of injustice to become indignant or outraged.

Secondly, these judgements are “concern-based” as Robert Roberts (2003) calls it, or “eudaimonistic” in the more abstract words of Martha Nussbaum (2001). That means emotions embody personal values, they are grounded in our personal “scheme of goals and projects” (Nussbaum 2001, p. 52). This is comparable to what I have called “needs” in my practical account. Anything that interferes with this scheme will cause emotions and by that provides us with information about the things that really matters to us. Emotions arise only if the judgements we assent to, have personal relevance for our lives, our personal goals and projects or the goals and projects of our loved ones. That is why we do not grief at all about the death of a stranger but become very anxious when we realise that we might have missed an important deadline (for a term paper, our tax declaration or a welfare application). The strengths of our emotions do not correlate with the strength of the perceived incident (there is no objectifiable way of measuring the strength of incidents in the social world, by the way), the strength of our emotions is grounded only in the personal, subjective relevance of the situation for our values, needs, goals and projects.

Anything that interferes with this scheme will cause emotions and by that provides us with information about the things that really matters to us. That is why emotions are also hugely important for political deliberation. In the words of Cheryl Hall: „I cannot discern my values by consulting my reason separately from my passion. I may determine what I think my values are, what I think they should be, or what someone told me they should be, but unless my feelings also happen to point in the same direction as any of these, I will not have determined what I really value“ (Hall 2007, p. 90–91). Sharon Krause puts it this way: „[…] sentiments set the basis for future decisions by providing a sense of what matters“ (2008, p. 3). So, as in coaching or mediation, emphasising emotions in political discourse might actually be something valuable, because emotions are phenomena that directly relate to personal values. Clearly identifying one’s values is a necessary precondition for both ethical and political deliberation.

But what if I become angry in a deliberation about an upcoming political decision that deeply interferes with some of my core projects? This emotion might give rise to strong and perhaps violent actions. Actions that are misplaced in a political deliberation. Or it might prevent me from openly listening to the positions of the other participants, either because my anger leads me to judge their positions as less legitimate or simply because my emotion, understood as a cognitive process, is too captivating and takes attention away from other cognitive processes like listening to and understanding other participants. A third option is, that emotions might take something as their object which really isn’t and thereby obscuring the actual issue: „With regard to refugees and migrants, people had various fears and frustrations”, Hans Blokland experienced in his deliberative workshops, “[t]hese fears and frustrations often were more informative about their own predicament than about refugees and migrants“ (2017a).  Wouldn’t these possibilities justify to legitimately disqualify emotions in political deliberation?

Three thoughts about that: firstly, it certainly is possible to suppress violent actions even if you are outraged. That is a matter of character and decision. But it is impossible to suppress one’s emotionality as such. Emotions arise when something interferes with our scheme of goals and projects. That will happen inevitably in the face of upcoming political decisions. We cannot ban emotions from deliberation, we need a way to deal with them other than suppression, a strategy which is doomed to failure anyway. Secondly, imagine a different situation – or rather – a different emotion during deliberation. Listening to another participants account on the matter really touches me, I become sad and worried when I realise what the political decision that I favour would inflict upon this person (and the group to which she or he belongs). This sadness, grounded perhaps in rediscovering my value of contributing to the well-being of other persons in my political community, might lead me to a search for compromise or let me change my position completely. What I just described is another possibility for emotion’s influence in deliberation. I spoke of sadness and being worried but you could also interpret this situation as an instance of compassion. Finally, regarding emotions’ obscuring nature, I presume an approach that directly assesses the expressed emotions and searches for the values, goals and needs behind them will do much more to clarify the situation, than merely disqualifying those expressions.

Contrasting anger with compassion, though, might seem too easy a contraposition to actually be convincing. So, let me briefly elaborate on a different case, where anger, as a rather challenging emotion, actually benefits the discussion. Anger or indignation might arise in a deliberation when someone gets the impression, that an important argument is ignored by other participants due perhaps to the disregard of the person who brought it up (may it be, that this person belongs to a minority, is less educated or has raised some irrational arguments earlier in the discussion, which should not prevent someone from evaluating later arguments on their merits). In this case anger sheds some light on potentially undemocratic dynamics within the group.

Obviously, emotions can disrupt deliberation or enhance core democratic values within it. There might be emotions that are highly welcome and easily integrated in every political discourse, like compassion, some forms of fear or grief, and there might be emotions that require a lot of work and the right setting to become included without disrupting the discussion. Anger, shame and – as a hint on the complexity of the phenomenon – some other forms of fear or grief might belong to this second group. Disgust towards persons could also be one of it, since this emotion could obstruct the very beginning of deliberation by preventing people from entering into discourse (cf. Nussbaum 2001, p. 342–350; 2013, p. 182–186) Sharon Krause draws the reasonable conclusion: „We need to know when and how feelings should be incorporated into the deliberative process; we need to know how far empathic (or ‘affiliative’) concern should reach; and we need some standards or method for discriminating between sentiments that deserve our respect and those that do not“ (2008, p. 4). This is an enormously important project both in political theory and in society itself. This project requires convincing scientific accounts on how emotions might fit into politics as well as the adequate communication of these accounts to public discourse, including ways of allowing citizens to experience such forms of emotional deliberation.

 

Barriers to the Inclusion of Emotions in Deliberation

Both stages of this project will face several difficulties. On the scientific or philosophical level, there are ongoing debates about the real essence of emotionality. The question, what emotions really are, is answered in several ways. Some of them differ substantially. Feeling-theories for instance view emotions first and foremost as states of the body, that are not directed at any external object. Emotions, thus, are neither intentional nor dependent on a judgement’s proposition and in no way connected to a person’s set of values. The discrepancy between these theories and the definition I stated above is obvious. The shortcoming of these theories is also evident: insofar this notion of emotions perceives of them as impulsive and incomprehensible, they cannot become part of any form of reasonable deliberation. The only legitimate way to handle emotions in politics or ethical deliberation is the attempt to suppress them so that they can not cloud one’s reasoning capacity. If we instead “think of emotions as essential elements of human intelligence […] this gives us especially strong reasons to promote the conditions of emotional well-being in a political culture: for this view entails that without emotional development, a part of our reasoning capacity as political creatures will be missing” (Nussbaum 2001, p. 3). Although the philosophical community is not united in this regard, the cognitive-evaluative strand of the philosophy of emotions, associated with the work of Robert Solomon (1993), Martha Nussbaum (2001, 2013), Robert Roberts (2003), and others (for an advanced introduction, also containing different views, see the volume Thinking about Feeling, edited by Robert Solomon 2004), is both well prepared and sufficiently elaborated, to provide a comprehensive and sound theory of politically relevant expressions or instances of emotionality.

The field of studying emotions in political science and political theory seems very fragmented, more controversial than the broader field of philosophy of emotions and also to a much lesser degree operating with sound concepts of emotions. There is no clear guiding thread that holds different strands of research together (Hoggett & Thompson 2012, p. 1–2), except for the fact, that all the existing studies connect emotions and politics in some way. The reason for this might be twofold: firstly, a diverse range of phenomena is categorised under the label “emotion”, erroneously suggesting theoretical uniformity. Theorists who see emotions partly responsible for the rise of populism will have a completely different understanding of what emotions are than I have. Secondly, there is no single accepted notion of the proper place of emotions in politics (cf. Heidenreich 2012). If it is unclear, what emotions really are, than there can not be consensus about if and how emotions might benefit political processes and under which conditions.

Research, of course, needs to be controversial to some degree in order to function properly and produce valuable insights, precisely by assessing the conflicting positions. Undifferentiated theoretical connections, for instance between emotions and the rise of populism or between emotional rhetoric and attempts to manipulate voting decisions, though, can be problematic. Mainly because these accounts, operating with inadequate or at least under-complex concepts of emotionality, might confuse what emotions actually are with some other biases human beings are susceptible of. And by this they might ascribe certain characteristics to emotions that suggest to label emotions as undemocratic, even though this label rather belongs to a certain bias or faulty reasoning which is not identical with emotionality. Another point is that the notion of reason being superior to (and – in a first step – separable from) emotion is still dominant in politics generally and in deliberation in particular. A notion that can not be supported in the light of recent research in several emotion-related fields of study. As I have stated above, there are aspects of emotionality which can easily disrupt a political debate and pre-empt genuinely democratic decision making. But there are valuable insights in emotions, too, that needs to get heard to fulfil the democratic promise of political equality and inclusiveness. But for that to be acknowledged there are many obstacles to overcome in the social sciences. I do not argue in favour of theoretical uniformity but instead I demand that political scientists who approach emotions in politics or deliberation at least use a sound and encompassing as well as internally consistent concept of what emotions are.

On the societal level Susan Bickford concisely summarised the difficulties that emotional deliberation (or any attempt to change the perception of the role of emotions in politics) will face:

„[…] emotional expressions are interpreted, reacted to, given meaning by ourselves and by others in a context of difference, conflict, and inequality. This context also supplies multiple interpretive frames—ways of talking—about emotion. […] These cultural beliefs include general claims about emotion working with or against reason, as well as evaluations of particular emotions as valuable and appropriate (or not).“ (2011, p. 1032)

This would mean, for instance, that any politician, who is publicly expressing her or his emotions towards a certain issue, will face nearly opposing sets of responses (let’s assume that the emotion in question was both comprehensible and to some degree appropriate). Some groups will consider it a politically legitimate move, while others will consider it a weakness, an attempt to manipulate or merely an illegitimate departure from rational politics. The same is true, I suppose, for deliberation: if some participants in a deliberation start expressing their emotions towards the topic of the debate or the upcoming decision, this could either be welcomed by the other participants or judged as inappropriate. Iris Marion Young (2000) takes this observation as an example of an undemocratic exclusion from deliberating on eye level by means of disqualifying the contributions of other participants. Young approaches this anti-democratic tendency by explicitly demanding emotional content (either in rhetoric or in narratives) in political deliberation, to foster mutual understanding (p. 63–77). But her demands cannot, by itself, overcome the obstacles that emotions face in public debates, because these hurdles demand a more fundamental approach that takes all the social dynamics into account that Susan Bickford rightly identified.

 

Conclusion: What is to be done?

Against the background of all these difficulties, how shall the community of political theorists and social scientists proceed in answering the questions, that Sharon Krause has put forward? Existing accounts of the role of emotions in deliberation operate with underdeveloped concepts of emotionality, merely subsuming anything that is colloquially called emotion under this term. Political theory needs to employ a more analytically sound approach towards human emotions on deliberation. An account that is able to discriminate between instances of emotionality that either disrupt or deepen democratic deliberation, that provides instructions about how to deal with and perhaps transform disruptively expressed emotions, an account finally which is based on a solid theory of emotions’ dynamics and the content of emotional judgements. An important task, thus, is to develop an encompassing view of emotions’ interferences (positive and negative) in political deliberation by connecting different approaches of the philosophy of emotions with findings from several different emotion-related fields of research, like psychology and neurophysiology (cf. Damasio 2006, for an instructive and comprehensible neurophysiological account, supplementing the cognitive-evaluative theory of emotions). Another important task is to foster empirical research of emotions’ influences in political deliberation, guided by an elaborated cognitive-evaluative account on emotions.

Let us now contemplate on some practical possibilities on a far less abstract level. I want to demonstrate how a small-group discussion, similar to those Social Science Works conducts with groups of refugees or “worried citizens”, provides a setting in which emotions can successfully be integrated.  At the same time this setting is able to produce the empirical evidence necessary to refine our understanding of emotions’ interferences in deliberation.

I want to develop this setting by examining and adjusting the considerations behind the deliberative workshops of Social Science Works. The starting point, thus, is a moderated small-group discussion about the individual meaning and evaluation of concepts like democracy, tolerance, freedom, and so on. These discussions are conducted according to several standards: taking people serious, foster mutual trust and facilitating an exchange on equal terms. Their overall aim is to “be a general experience in tolerance, reflection, and civic participation, which can pave the way for further deliberative exchanges and civic activities” (Blokland 2017a). They are unfit, though, to incorporate particularities like personal backgrounds, as Hans Blokland notes (2017b). These backgrounds, he argues, might “obscure the essentials and regularly suggest the existence of something totally unique and distinctive, something that is, consequently, incomprehensible for people with different backgrounds” (ibid.). I strongly disagree with the assumption, that directing attention towards particularities, life stories as well as emotions, reinforces notions of incommensurate life experiences and cultural relativism. It is true, however, that “in these stories truth and relevancy are often difficult to assess “ (ibid.), but focusing on the connections between these life experiences and the emotions, which accompanied them, provide information about values, goals and projects that are likely to foster mutual understanding and a sense of commonality.

For that to succeed, though, I suggest some changes in the overall aim of these discussion groups. If the deliberation’s intention is to disclose and, by means of discussing on eye-level, educate the participants understanding of general concepts like democracy, as is the case with the projects of Social Science Works, there is only a vague or abstract criterion to discriminate between relevant and irrelevant particularities. If the deliberation is centred around a specific problem to solve, the upcoming particularities, emotions and narratives, will with a higher probability contain valuable information about the goals and needs of the participants in regard to this topic. Goals and needs that might or might not be shared among participants but which are always comprehensible to one another and can help foster mutual understanding. And when the upcoming particularities do not contain information in regard to the topic of the discussion, relevancy is much easier to assess and can then openly be communicated  to the discussants. Additional changes include transparency about the integration of emotions in the discussion (and perhaps a meta-discussion about the benefits of that approach) and a moderator, who is trained to disclose the connections between particular stories, the subliminal emotions and the values, goals, projects or needs behind them.

These proposals, since they have not yet been tested in a real world small-group discussion, must be considered as incomplete and preliminary hypotheses. They are a starting point or perhaps a blue-print for the collection of empirical evidence based on a promising yet also preliminary theoretical account. But social science needs to start elaborating on these issues somewhere, given the current developments in democracies all around the world. The existing accounts do not operate on a solid scientific base and further research, scholarly exchange and perhaps most urgent the collection of empirical evidence are important next steps.

 

References

Benhabib, Seyla. 1996. Toward a Deliberative Model of Democratic Legitimacy. In: Seyla Benhabib (ed.). Democracy and Difference – Contesting the Boundaries of the Political. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 67–94.

Bickford, Susan. 2011. Emotion Talk and Political Judgment. The Journal of Politics 73 (4): 1025–1037.

Blokland, Hans. 2017a. Deliberation against Populism – Reconnecting Radicalizing Citizens in East Germany & Elsewhere. Potsdam: Social Science Works.

Blokland, Hans. 2017b. Taking People Seriously – A New Approach for Countering Populism and Furthering Integration. Potsdam: Social Science Works.

Blokland, Hans. 2018a. How to Deliberate Fundamental Values? Notes from Brandenburg on our Approach. Potsdam: Social Science Works.

Blokland, Hans. 2018b. Countering Radicalization – What the Research on Deliberation and Radicalization Teaches us. Potsdam: Social Science Works.

Damasio, Antonio. 2006 [1994]. Descartes’ Error – Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. London: Vintage.

Fishkin, James S. 2009. When the People Speak – Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hall, Cheryl. 2007. Recognizing the Passion in Deliberation – Toward a More Democratic Theory of Deliberative Democracy. Hypatia 22 (4): 81–95.

Heidenreich, Felix. 2012. Versuch eines Überblicks: Politische Theorie und Emotionen. In: Felix Heidenreich (ed.). Politische Theorie und Emotionen. Baden-Baden: Nomos. 9–26.

Krause, Sharon. 2008. Civil Passions – Moral Sentiment and Democratic Deliberation. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Nussbaum, Martha C. 2001. Upheavals of Thought – The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nussbaum, Martha C. 2013. Political Emotions – Why Love Matters for Justice. Cambridge & London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Thompson, Simon / Hoggett, Paul. 2012. Introduction. In: Simon Thompson / Paul Hoggett (eds.). Politics and the Emotions. The affective turn in contemporary political studies. New York & London: Continuum. 1–19.

Roberts, Robert C. 2003. Emotions – An Essay in Aid of Moral Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Solomon, Robert C. 1993 [1976]. The Passions – Emotions and the Meaning of Life. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.

Solomon, Robert C. (ed.). 2004. Thinking about Feeling – Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Young, Iris M. 2000. Inclusion and Democracy. New York: Oxford University Press.

 

About the author

Phillip Reißenweber is communications coach, trained in Nonviolent Communication based on the approach by Marshall B. Rosenberg, political scientist with an emphasis on political theory and doctoral candidate at the University of Greifswald. In his PhD thesis he investigates the role of emotions in political deliberation in connection with possible designs for actual settings to integrate emotions in public discourse.

 

 

 

 


The trouble with tourism in Barcelona – A problem beyond Barcelona


The gentrification of Barcelona is not a new story. If you live in cities like New York City, Mexico City or Hong Kong, then perhaps you know this story too. Or if you see your local cafes increasing the price of an espresso or worse, including strange drinks like a unicorn frappe or avocado latte, then you are definitely part of this story.

“I love Barcelona” graffiti

To many, the city of Barcelona is synonymous with the success of its football team (not RCD Espanyol of course), Gaudi or a beautiful city with eternal sunny weather. All this is true, but there is another side to Barcelona that often gets negated under its Instagram-friendly demeanor (the third most Instagrammed city in Europe, after London and Paris, according to a 2018 study). Many tourists do not realize that tourism, together with gentrification and urbanization, has become a strain on the city.

 

Too much tourism

In 2018, during my Erasmus semester in Barcelona, I came across a piece of sticker art stating, “Tourism kills the city”. Although graffiti screaming “Tourist you are the terrorist” or “Stop destroying our lives” are increasingly commonplace, 86.7% of residents still think tourism is good but demand greater regulation (Diaz, 2017).

A sticker outside of Park Güell

Obviously, locals do not want tourism to boom at their expense. Particularly in Barcelona, unsustainable tourism has had unsavory repercussions. One of these repercussions is the diminishing social cohesion in local neighborhoods or barrios.

As such, the city administration faces the challenge of balancing the social interests of the locals with the economic benefits of tourism. This is especially relevant as the current mayor, Ada Colau was elected on her promises to improve tourism, housing and inequality.

A tour of this essay

First, we examine how tourism has facilitated a profit before people mentality in barrios and its subsequent impact on social cohesion. Second, we consider some of the benefits for locals that tourism has brought. Third, we propose that a shift towards high-value tourism to reduce the strain of tourism on barrios. Fourth, we recommend that grassroots activism can improve social cohesion and promote more authentic points of interaction between locals and tourists.

Cash Rules Everything Around Barcelona?

 Despite the controversy, it is undeniable that Barcelona has reaped economic benefits from tourism. Amidst an economic slump, the tourism sector has been critical in supporting Barcelona’s economy, accounting for 12% of the GDP and employing 400,000 people (Burgen, 2017). However, these economic benefits were not attained without cost. In this case, the encroach of tourism into barrios instills a mentality of profiteering, which ultimately destroys the social cohesion of barrios.

First, barrios are transformed by the economic motivation to profit from tourists. When the inflow of tourist’s dwarves the local population, local businesses have every economic incentive to prioritize tourists over locals as their primary clientele. In 2016, nearly 32 million tourists visited Barcelona (Plush, 2017). This is colossal compared to Barcelona’s population of approximately 1.6 million in 2016 (Ajuntament de Barcelona, 2017).

Hence, it becomes rational for businesses to raise prices to take advantage of the large supply of tourists. Consequently, this sets forth a chain reaction that ultimately leads to the destruction of cohesion in barrios. For example, in 2013, locals were outraged when Parc Güell, a public park and UNESCO World Heritage Site designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, introduced an entrance fee for all visitors, in a bid to profit from tourist visitors (Smith, 2013).

Tourists at the entrance of Park Güell

Second, the increase in prices eventually leads to the increase in the cost of living for locals. As price-takers, tourists are susceptible to price-hikes from businesses. Even if they are aware of being charged exorbitant prices, they accept it as a one-off transaction or a holiday indulgence. Ironically, many of these businesses themselves have to pay higher costs of rent and labor for being located in gentrified barrios. Therefore, they have little choice but to raise their prices. As a result, businesses shift to cheaper barrios when they are unable to cope with the increase in living costs. As the barrios of Barcelona become saturated with tourists, locals are pushed further to suburbs such as Hospitalet or Sabadell.

 

An abandoned cinema near the Sagrada Familia

Third, the rise in the cost of living inevitably affects the cost of housing. The influx of large volumes of tourists has increased demand for housing. This has prompted real estate companies and investors to acquire property. Subsequently, buildings have been bought or rent has been raised to price out locals from their homes and barrios. Gradually, this facilitates the inflow of wealthy residents and an outflow of middle-class locals.

This flux of haves and have-nots disrupts stable communities and enhances social segregation. As barrios become gentrified, this is likely to lead to segregated enclaves and even gated communities. The result is urban segregation in Barcelona which increasingly appears to be based more on income inequality than on ethnic features (Lopez et al., 2017).

 

“Stop Pobresa” graffiti along Avinguda Diagonal at Poble Nou

Fourth, barrios are additionally affected by informal economic motivation. The informal economic sector has grown together with tourism. The explosion of tourism in Barcelona has provided a strong demand from tourists for informal economic activities to supply. Moreover, the increased cost of living has pushed locals to find alternative means to support their income.

In Barcelona, the informal economy manifests itself across barrios in various forms. On occasions, the informal economy is personified by the manteros, street-vendors hawking everything from selfie-sticks to cans of beer. On other occasions, the informal economy takes the form of illegal tourist rentals like Airbnb. However, it is the more corporate operators like Airbnb and Homeaway instead of relatively ‘small-time’ actors like manteros, who have come under fierce reproach from locals. Subsequently, the city administration has enforced stricter regulation like a temporary cap on the number of new registrations for rentals and heftier fines for violations (Lomas, 2016).

A mantero selling sunglasses near Plaza Espanya

Eventually, for those who do stay in their barrios, it is not the same neighborhood as they once knew. Local residents feel alienated in their own city because their barrios undergo rapid change and become less familiar. Older buildings get torn down and are replaced quickly by shopping malls and hotels. When the middle class, who form the bulk of the population, become victims of high property prices and have to relocate, a significant part of the city becomes transient. They uproot their homes to start anew in another barrio, in what Ferdinand Tönnies would consider to be a disruption of the existing Gemeinschaft and while the entrance of tourists replaces it with Gesellschaft. Overall, the high demand from tourism has triggered economic changes that has made barrios more profit-driven and less people-oriented.

Not everyone hates tourism

While the economic opportunities have had externalities like diminishing the social cohesion in barrios, they have also brought economic benefits. This is echoed by Joan Pere, the President of The Association of Barcelona Hosts. He underlined that rental flats spread the benefits of tourism to less-visited barrios, provide income for hosts and allow locals to share the joy of living in Barcelona (Edwards, 2015).

Instead of tourists staying in generic international hotel chains which monopolize the bulk of economic benefits, platforms like Airbnb allow locals to rent out their space to benefit from tourism. This could boost the local economies of less-wealthier barrios while enabling tourists to stay and experience a more authentic dimension of Barcelona.

For example, Airbnb reported that more than half of Barcelona’s hosts said leasing out a room helped them make ends meet. Moreover, Airbnb claimed that this contributed €430 million in 2013 to the city and provided employment for more than 4,000 people (Edwards, 2015).

Although this could create a win-win situation for both locals and tourists, it could also lead to an over-saturation of tourism in neighborhoods. Clearly, regulations by the Sectoral Planning Committee of the Taula de Turisme have taken this possibility into account. As a result, they have stopped granting licenses for highly tourist saturated regions like the Gothic Quarter in order to nudge tourists to less congested neighborhoods. Hence, regulation should channel the tourist demand to barrios where supply is untapped.

For example, under the Special Tourist Accommodation Plan, the Hyatt and Four Seasons were disallowed from building hotels in the neighborhood of Poblenou (Thiessen, 2017). In this case, the city administration could have instead redirected the Hyatt and Four Seasons to build in less congested parts of the city to re-distribute the economic benefits of tourism among the other barrios in Barcelona.

Torre Agbar was the proposed location for the Grand Hyatt

However, the potential for profiteering from Barcelona’s neighborhoods could lead to tenants being evicted, when buildings are sold to commercial developers or landlords raise the rent. Fortunately, current regulatory measures have taken great strides in protecting residents from being forced out by corporate interests.

 

For example, in response to the shortage of affordable housing, Mayor Colau’s administration fined two investment funds €2.8 million for hogging unoccupied buildings in Barcelona’s center (O’Sullivan, 2019).

Beyond curbing exorbitant rent and unoccupied buildings, regulation must strive to maximize the social welfare of locals while balancing their ability to profit from tourism. Hence, to make tourism more sustainable, the number of tourists needs to be reduced without forgoing the economic benefits. Similarly, to improve social cohesion in barrios, grassroots activism can be encouraged to restore barrios to being more community-centered.

Lesser tourists but higher-value

In a simplistic manner, to make tourism more sustainable, the number of tourists must be reduced, without decreasing the economic benefits. Hence, regulation must focus on drawing more high-value tourists. While the moral implications of favoring more high-value tourists are controversial, it may be practical and momentarily required.

In rapidly attempting to draw more tourists, Barcelona, attracted predominantly “drunken, budget tourism”, which brings little economic benefit but great social harm (Edwards, 2015). Between 2012 and 2016, nearly 60% of tourists came for holiday purposes (Ajuntament de Barcelona, 2017). On average, these tourists spend €284.90 euros while tourists on professional visits spend €464.10. Notably, between 2014 and 2016, the number of tourists on holiday visits was nearly thrice the number of tourists on professional visits.

A popular tourist spot along Port Vell

Additionally, tourists on professional visits are much less likely to cause social harm. Besides, the revenue brought in by these high-value tourists may adequately cover the externalities of social harm by unruly tourists. Therefore, to attract more tourists on professional visits, measures like waiving the tourist tax could be introduced.

Moreover, regulation should be complemented by efforts to re-brand Barcelona as more of a professional destination. Revamping Barcelona’s branding to be perceived as business hub instead of just a tourist getaway may draw more investment into developing its business infrastructure instead of building more tourist attractions.

For example, rebranding efforts could focus on more professional events like the Mobile World Congress or showcasing its stature as home to the 5th largest number of startups in Europe (with 1100 startups in 2017 according to Wired). In the long term, this may attract more professionals than tourists.

Barrios for the locals, by the locals

While regulatory action can mitigate the social costs of tourism, Mayor Colau’s emphasis on grassroots activism could hold the key to restoring social cohesion in barrios. Particularly, empowering barrio residents to participate in bottom-up initiatives could strengthen the social fabric of their neighborhoods. Moreover, this may have positive spillover effects on tourism.

Christmas street parade at Sants-Montjuic

Recently, demonstrations from groups like Arran (Level With) and La Barceloneta Diu Prou (Barceloneta Says Enough) expressed their disdain towards tourism. However, such confrontational behavior might not be constructive in making tourism more sustainable. Hence, a softer and more inclusionary approach could help channel public frustration towards tourism into avenues to improve social cohesion in their barrios.

First, grassroots activism could reduce the tension between foreigners and locals. By reducing antagonism towards tourists, locals will be able to more objectively appreciate the benefits and assess the costs of tourism. This opinion is supported by Platform for Tourist Rentals, an industry-funded campaign group in Barcelona. They have published several videos refuting claims of a link between antisocial behavior and tourist flats to reduce stigmatizing foreign visitors (Edwards, 2015). Hence, grassroots activism should address hostility towards tourists to make it conducive to explore more sustainable forms of tourism. Perhaps grassroots movements could tap into the soft power of local Catalan culture to untie its residents and keep excessive signs of tourism in check.

When tourists sense decreasing hostility from locals, they might feel more confident to venture beyond their comfort zone of tourist attractions. Hence, they might be more inclined to rely less on typical tourist activities like pub crawls. Instead, they might consider participating in more authentic alternatives like Pétanque tournaments. Such events create an opportunity for locals and tourists to get to know each other. Identifying common experiences will reduce antagonism towards tourists and even bring barrio residents together.

A game of Pétanque at a park across to Sagrada Familia

Second, when hostility towards tourism has decreased, grassroots activism could initiate avenues for cultural exchange. Grassroots groups could organize events in their barrios to revive community spirit. The Catalan Tourism Board could sponsor grassroots efforts like inviting tourists to learn more about Catalan culture by organizing meals together or small tours of neighborhoods.

This would provide a platform for grassroots groups to showcase their culture and restore humble barrios into proud strongholds of Catalan lifestyle. In return, this may draw more tourists, but they will be well aware of the passionate pride Catalans have in their tradition and the need to respect it. Additionally, festivals like La Cabalgata de Reyes Magos (Three Kings Parade) can reinvigorate the community spirit by bringing both locals and tourists alike together to celebrate Catalan culture.

A difficult balancing act

When tourism is in excess, it results in Gesellschaft dominating over Gemeinschaft. This results in the disintegration of cohesion in barrio. Especially in this situation, property rights in Barcelona bear more Marxist significance, in terms of the struggle against capitalist ambitions of transforming barrios into profiteering opportunities. Social segregation results when residents are spatially separated based on their capacity to enter the housing market (Griffith, 2015). Consequently, social relations are destroyed, and the very soul of barrios becomes lost.

“Refugees Welcome. Tourists Go Home” banner near Parc Güell

The dilemma for regulators is how to prevent barrios from being gentrified, even though this may inadvertently draw more tourists to experience a more authentic Barcelona atmosphere. Ideally, regulation favoring high-value tourism would reduce the number of tourists. This could make locals less hostile to tourism. Moreover, long term solutions like price ceilings for rent are necessary (Lomas, 2016).

Although democratically elected representatives have control over the general administration of the city, they are likely to face opposition by the managerial elite who control vast commercial empires in Barcelona. Therefore, it remains imperative for the city administration to resist the pressures of big business from tourism and strengthen the social fabric of barrios.

References

  1. Ajuntament de Barcelona, Statistics http://www.bcn.cat/estadistica/angles/dades/index.htm
  2. Brodwyn Fischer, 2008, A Poverty of Rights, Stanford, Stanford University Press part 4. Segregation and urban spatial structure in Barcelona: Does history really matter?
  3. Dan Hancox, 26 May 2016, Is this the world’s most radical mayor? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/26/ada-colau-barcelona-most-radical-mayor-in-the-world
  4. Feargus O’Sullivan, 15 March 2019, In Need of Housing, Barcelona Fines Landlords For Long-Vacant Buildings https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/03/barcelona-affordable-housing-spain-apartment-rental-fines/584902/
  5. Gian Volpicelli, 5 September 2018, The Hottest Startups in 2018, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/best-startups-in-barcelona-2018
  6. Harold Goodwin, September 2016, Managing Tourism in Barcelona Emeritus Professor, Institute of Place Management, Manchester Metropolitan University http://haroldgoodwin.info/RTPWP/01%20Managing%20Tourism%20in%20Barcelona.pdf
  7. Hazel Plush, 27 January 2017, Barcelona unveils new law to keep tourists away, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/spain/catalonia/barcelona/articles/barcelona-unveils-new-law-to-keep-tourists-away/
  8. Janice C Griffith., Barcelona, Spain as a Model for the Creation of Innovation Districts and Sustainable Social Housing Without Spatial Segregation (2015). Revista De Derecho Urbanístico y Medio Ambiente, 251 [Journal of Law and the Environment], Year XLIX, No. 297 BIS, April-May 2015; Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 16-3. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2739961
  9. Juan Galeano, Andreu Domingo, Albert Sabater, 2014, What’s up with Barcelona? Residential segregation, increasing population diversity and living conditions inequalities http://paa2014.princeton.edu/papers/141956
  10. Miquel-Àngel Garcia–Lopez, Rosella Nicolini, José Luis Roig, June 2017, Segregation and urban spatial structure in Barcelona: Does history really matter? https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=692102005081069106099012104001024077118020020019044006105025126064070101093028067105121035037038023004045070087086009067072065025085014061016072107020026005086068070050022000072001100123096111101021076004012007074020101105008088077008087091074077022&EXT=pdf
  11. Natasha Lomas, 19 Sep 2016, Airbnb faces fresh crackdown in Barcelona as city council asks residents to report illegal rentals, https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/19/airbnb-faces-fresh-crackdown-in-barcelona-as-city-council-asks-residents-to-report-illegal-rentals/
  12. Oliver Smith, 2 October 2013, Barcelona plans Park Güell entrance charge, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/Barcelona-plans-Park-Guell-entrance-charge/
  13. Sam Edwards, 10 June 2015, Pissed-Off Barcelona Residents Are Fighting Back Against Drunk, Naked Tourists, Vice Magazine https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/kwxwbv/barcelona-tourism-backlash-822
  14. Stephen Burgen, 20 October 2017, Catalonia tourism slumps 15% since referendum violence https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/20/catalonia-tourism-slumps-15-since-referendum-violence
  15. Tamara Thiessen, 17 May 2017, Barcelona ban on new hotels sends developers elsewhere, http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Articles/139913/Barcelona-ban-on-new-hotels-sends-developers-elsewhere

 

 

 

 


“People have to work!” A Deliberation at a Secondary School in Brandenburg


This “Schule mit Courage” in a town East of Berlin has in total 330 pupils. About a third are first generation migrants or refugees (mostly from Syria or Afghanistan). The school works with a refugee home nearby which we already knew well, having organized workshops there in the summer of 2017. The three workshops mostly took place during school hours and were offered to the students on a voluntary basis. Fortunately, after meeting with us, the youth worker based at this “Oberschule” really believed in the program and helped to promote it. He convinced the school director to support the program and was key to the recruitment of the pupils; they seemed to have a lot of trust in him and his activities.

An “Oberschule” (secondary school) is the level below the Gymnasium and mainly prepares for the job-market. “Schools with Courage” explicitly have an anti-discrimination profile. They have to apply for this title and to keep it they have to organize activities to counter all kinds of discrimination, including racism and anti-Semitism. Brandenburg counts 73 “Schule mit Courage” (out of 2663).

The first workshop had 17 participants. Nine had a migrant-background. We had four participants of 18, five of 17, five of 16, and three of 15. Seven girls and ten boys.

The second workshop, 10 days later, had 12 participants, six with a migration background. And the last workshop, a week later, attracted 11 people.

About half of the participants were actively involved, but because of language and communication barriers the other half was mainly listening. The pupils treated each other respectful and were able to concentrate for long periods of time.

Since these students volunteered to participate, one might reasonably assume that they are relatively interested in politics, and feel less alienated than those who didn’t. The survey we held at the beginning of the workshop certainly indicates that.[1]

For most of the participants, explaining and justifying their personal ideas and opinions in a coherent and rational way, was clearly a new experience. The joy of debating and reasoning with each other was new. The pupils did have “Politische Bildung” (political education) in their curriculum, but this was mostly about the reproduction of “facts”: how many political parties do we have in Germany? how is parliament elected? when was Germany united? The knowledge of these facts could be checked in tests. The open ended questions often incited bewilderment, confusion and after a while sometimes also irritation, questions like: why is democracy is important? why does politics exists? why is freedom is valuable? for what kind of questions we have final answers and for what kind of questions we do not? what kind of topics can we or should we leave to experts, and what kind of topics to politicians or citizens? or even why men and women should have equal rights? The students were not used to defending and to justifying values that they instinctively agreed with.

Furthermore, we noticed the students were fearful that they would be asked more questions once they had participated in a discussion. They assumed that we were checking whether they knew the right answers, and were surprised and sometimes also a bit annoyed when we made clear that these ‘right’ answers didn’t exist.

The ability to see a connection between different ideas and values was also often poor. For instance, together we developed the insight that in a democracy freedom of expression is important. They concluded that only as a result of freedom will new ideas come on the market, new ideas that could create innovation and progress. We remarked that we need alternative ideas so that voters have the opportunity to choose between options. An election without different candidates, or parties without different programs, is meaningless.

After this discussion, one might reasonably expect that the participants would query how “free” someone could be if they, like their parents, spend day in day out sitting on a couch, eating pizzas, drinking beer and watching TV. Instead, the general opinion was that this person is indeed totally free and more or less enjoying the absolute dream.

When asked whether there is a relation between freedom, and having knowledge of alternative ideas, values, life styles, worldviews, or cultural and artistic preferences, these pupils are mainly confused. The idea of “Bildung” does not resonate. When asked why they go to school, most answers are completely rational: to prepare themselves for a job that will generate an income so that they can build up a life (buy a house, buy a car, and go on holiday). They chose to go to school because all their friends do so, and German law dictates that they must. They had never really asked themselves, it was conceded, how this infringement of their freedom could be justified.

The empirical facts that we presented which highlighted extreme inequality of opportunities for men and women in Germany, did not stir strong emotions, not even among the girls. “Why should they get to the top?” two girls asked. What’s the problem not choosing to pursue leadership positions? They didn’t care if their boss was male or female -they just wanted to be paid on time, and be left alone. There were only two exceptions, one girl from Syria and one from Germany; they got angry when it was suggested that girls could not do maths.

The pupils were also unable to give any sociological explanations for the very unequal positions of women and men in German corporations (only 3% of the CEO’s are female). One boy of 18 explained that car manufacturing is a prime activity in Germany, and claimed that since women are not interested in cars, you will not find them at the top of the automobile industry.

On the third day of the workshops we discussed, among other things, homosexuality. All the pupils stated to have no personal problems with homosexuals.[2] They do know many people, though, that have strong reservations regarding homosexuality. One very articulate boy stated his best friend really hates gay people, but he chooses not to discuss the topic with his friend. For the participant, it is just a question of how his friend has been raised, and it is neither possible nor his duty, to convince him of something different. He believed that ideas in societies change because old generations die out and new generations will have other ideas. When his friend would get violent towards gay people, he would intervene because he is against violence. However, he does not intervene when people tell offensive jokes or express prejudices. He feels strongly that people have a right to their own beliefs.

The only other pupils to react were a young man from Afghanistan and a Syrian girl. The Afghan young man explains that in his culture and religion homosexuality is strongly forbidden, but he recognises that this is an idea that can change over time.

When asked why people “become” homosexuals, the ideas differed. Many believed it was a choice, some accepted the idea of it being a disease and some saw it as a natural phenomenon.

The Syrian girl stated that gay people should not marry and should not have children; for her only a man and a woman can build a family. Women treat children in different ways than men, and children cannot do without a mother. Some others replied that fathers can often be more kind, caring, warm and protective than mothers. They know this from their own experience. The girl is challenged with the idea that in male homosexual relationships one, or even both, partners can play the role she exclusively ascribes to women. The Syrian girl does not deny this all and she seems to start doubting.

The same happened after she had explained that homosexuality develops when a man cannot find a wife, a reasoning we have heard several times before. So in China there will be many homosexuals, the girl suggests. In Germany, though, 51% of the population is female and 8% of the population states to be homosexual, we counter. Maybe homosexuality is not something people intentionally choose, rather homosexual preferences just happen.

We finish with a discussion on social justice. A little thought-experiment is presented: 100 people are shipwrecked together on an uninhabited island. How should they distribute what they produce together?

Once again we were struck by the lack of vocabulary to discuss this question in a meaningful way. The strong individualistic feeling is that everybody is responsible for themselves. Everybody can keep everything he gathers or produces. Everybody has to work. After this statement, there are not many further thoughts. We suggest that somebody can break a leg and consequently cannot work for some time. Should he starve? No, when it has not been his own fault, the others should take care of him. He should get what he needs to survive. Nothing more, and only if he works again afterwards.

What when somebody makes an invention that boosts production with 10%? Should he get more? How much? Why? What if somebody does not want a regular job, but rather wants to be creative? Make music, paint, or write? This should not be funded, is the consensus (or if there were people opposed, they not speak up).

We brought up the idea of a basic income (“bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen”). Everybody gets 1500 or 2000 Euro per month, no matter whether he “works”. This would make many human activities unnecessary. Many creative, innovative, cultural or social activities could then be taken up that were previously untouched because these activities do not provide people with an income. From an economic perspective, Germany might even be sufficiently wealthy to try out this idea.

The pupils reacted with total disbelief. When people get money for nothing, they would not work at all. They would all become pizza eating, beer drinking, tv watchers. Society would collapse. We would all starve. People have to work!

 

*Many thanks again to Jess Haigh for editing this article.

 

Notes

[1] The statement “People like me don’t have any say about what the government does” is seen in the literature as a strong indicator of alienation and populism. On a scale from one (completely disagree) to five (completely agree) the answers were evenly distributed yet: two people completely disagreed, four answered with a 2, four with a 3, three with a four and two people completely agreed. To the question “When you would have the chance to vote in the next election, what is the percent chance that you will actually vote?” nine out of fourteen people answered with 75 or 100%. Only one person knew for sure that he would not vote. The question “How confident are you in your own ability to participate in politics?” could be answered on a scale from 1 (not at all confident) to 5 (very confident). Two people responded with a 2, five with a 3, four with a 4, and one with a 5. This relative confidence, engagement and inclusion, might cause a more than average political competence.

[2] Fourteen people reacted to the statement in the survey “Homosexuality is an illness that can be cured”. On a scale from 1 to 5, ten replied “completely disagree” (1). One replied with “completely agree” (5). Two replied with 2, and one with 4.


A Deliberative Workshop with Chechen


Since 2016 Social Science Works has implemented more than forty rows of workshops with refugees and natives in which we discuss, among others, ethical and political pluralism, democracy, civic society, freedom (of expression, association and religion), personal autonomy, tolerance, human rights, identity, discrimination, racism, masculinity, femininity, sex equality, and homosexuality.

We are collecting large amounts of data (via surveys, participative observations, and interviews) that could contribute significantly to our knowledge on deliberation, democratization and integration. In the coming time, we hope to publish an increasing number of articles with our empirical observations and analyses. Apart from rather “thick” descriptions of the workshops, these will include statistical analyses of the surveys that many of our participants filled in. In these they were asked about their beliefs and values regarding the topics we usually discuss in our workshops, as well as about their experiences within the workshops. Earlier we published The Rewards from Deliberation: Researching the Feedback of our Workshops and Deliberating Homosexuality: Empirical Observations and Analyses.

Statistical analyses of the ideas of our participants on, among others, sex equality, freedom, democracy and pluralism will follow. In articles like the one that follows, we present empirical descriptions of several of our workshops with very different groups of participants. This will give a deeper understanding of how the deliberations that we described in the article “How to deliberate fundamental values?”, actually took shape. Since the recruitment of participants for civic activities is crucial, special attention will be devoted to how the recruitment had taken place.

All the descriptions are based on written notes, made during the workshops or shortly afterwards: because of the fear of many participants to say something wrong, most of the time it is not helpful to tape the deliberations. Even making notes in real time regularly furthers suspicions and worries. The descriptions, though, are checked and enhanced by other people from Social Science Works that were present. Most workshops we attended with two to four people.

We will not give a full description of the complete conversations of every single workshop. This would create much unreadable overlap. Most conversations developed to a lesser or higher degree as the deliberations described in “How to deliberate fundamental values?” and “Deliberative Wertevermittlung: Ein Leitfaden” (Blokland & Wadt, 2018). Instead, we present some extreme experiences (like the workshops with a group of refugees from Chechnya or a group from Syria) and some ideal-typical deliberations of specific groups of participants (like German pupils and students, Russian Germans, or Afghan young men). These in part ethnographic impressions will present to some extent contradicting descriptions. They will also regularly contradict the stories, clichés and (well-maintained) narratives on integration that we encounter on a continuing basis in journalistic and political production.

 

A Workshop with Chechen

In 2018, we held a three-day workshop with people from Chechnya who were living in a refugee home in a village in Brandenburg. It was one of the most extreme we have experienced so far. The home is part of a large, renovated, former military complex out of town, and is fairly isolated. Next to it is a new upper middle-class neighborhood with freestanding villas. There were protests from these people against the arrival of the refugees in 2016, but tensions have seemingly calmed down since then.

About 80 to 120 people are living in the refugee home, mostly families. In the previous year this had consisted of 50 Chechen. Today, only twenty of the Chechen group remain after internal fights and oppression stimulated the authorities to force them to relocate.

Chechnya is a relatively small country with no more than 1.2 million inhabitants that nevertheless has an extraordinary complex recorded history. Here is a summary of the last three decades, after the Soviet Union had fallen apart, and the Chechen Republic declared independence. The state gained de facto independence following the brutal First Chechen War (1994 – 6), which destroyed most of the infrastructure and economy and displaced 40% of the population. Huge Russian losses prompted President Boris Yeltsin to sign a peace treaty and withdraw Russian troops. However, during the Second Chechen War (1999 – 2000) Russian control was restored. Since 2007 Ramzan Kadyrov has (with Russian support) ruled Chechnya in a brutal, totalitarian fashion. On Kadyrov, the Independent recently observed: “He makes President Duterte of the Philippines seem like a bit of a softy” (16.01.2018). Rebels from Chechnya regularly used terrorist methods, contributing to the bad reputation of the Chechen. For instance, in 1995 insurgents took 2000 patients hostage in the hospital of a Russian town, and killed 150 of them. In 2002, 900 visitors of a Moscow theatre were taken captive, all 50 rebels and 117 civilians lost their lives. In 2004 rebels occupied a school in Beslan taking 1100 people (including almost 800 children) hostage, more than 150 adults and almost 200 children were killed. Today, Brandenburg counts around 7000 Chechen migrants. Approximately 70 of them are considered Islamists willing to use violence.[i]

The home has two guards and seven social workers. Our main contact is a former soldier of the Bundeswehr who served in Afghanistan. We are required to sign in at the entrance.

We had been in this refugee-home a few weeks before, several Chechen that were present at the time had asked us to organize a workshop exclusively for them and arrange a Russian translator, as they had difficulty understanding the topics in German. In advance of the workshops, 12 people had assured the Social Workers they wanted to participate. The people had been in Germany or Austria for more than 2 years, some even 6 years, but were not able to speak any German. They had been offered German classes but did not attend.

On the first day, at around 10.30am, we started with 6 people – five men, one woman. Apparently, already outside the workshop there was an interesting dynamic between the participants. Unfortunately, during the day several people angrily run off because of what others have said, stating they will only come back if somebody else leaves. Nevertheless, after a while some participants do continue to return. Consequently, the number of participants was continuously fluctuating between 3 and 10 throughout the three days.

One exceptional, very independent, Muslim woman (for convenience we call her Vera) of around 45 stayed for three days. She said she had been a high-ranking officer in the Russian army, in charge of a large department for anti-terrorism in Chechnya. For almost two decades her father was based in East-Germany, but she does not speak German. She divorced twice and has four children. She had to leave the three children of her first marriage in Chechnya, and fled to Germany with her six-year-old daughter from her second marriage. Vera is constantly scolding the men, calling them losers and ignorant. Several of these men were also high-ranking military, although it is unclear which army they are from.

After explaining who we were, what we were going to do, and why we were doing it, we started as usual with a deliberation on democracy. Democracy, two participants explain, is about the absence of fear; no fear of being arrested for something, no fear of saying what is on their mind. Several participants feel that democracy is about security and equality of the law. Although they have witnessed several Police Officers in Chechnya thinking they are above the law, it should be respected by everyone.

Democracy also is, says Vera, about listening to what others have to say, and making a decision collaboratively. Without saying the words, it is clear that the “others” she refers to must also include the female part of the population.

Two men go at length into the oppression and the torture of which they have been a victim, showing their many mutilations and explaining in detail how they have been tortured. Two of the five men only have one eye. One of them explains that he has psychological problems and has difficulties speaking about anything. He indeed remains silent for most of the time he is present.

Fear is widespread, even in the refugee camp the residents do not trust each other. Kadyrov has his spies everywhere, and if you talk bad about him, you or your family that remain in Chechnya could get in trouble. Several participants explain that they, for example, have received phone calls from family members who had been captured in Chechnya and were asking for money to buy themselves free.

The prospects are depressing. Chechnya is formally a part of Russia, which is considered a safe country. Consequently, the chances to get a permission to stay in Germany are small. The people we have met, have regularly been on the road for many years already. Some stayed first in Austria, others stayed in Poland. Sometimes they have been already sent back to Poland that resends them to Germany. Additionally, due to uncertain futures, the motivation to learn German or integrate in the German society is low. There is no plan. The social workers in the refugee home are also for this reason mainly into containment and conflict management. They do not try to activate or empower the people, they help people to get through the day on a daily basis. They assist them with the German bureaucracy and Doctors appointments, and they manage conflicts. Everything is optional, when people subscribe to a workshop or course but do not show up (or show up way too late), there is nothing one can do. The Chechen themselves also do not have a plan. They hang out and hang on.

A soup would be served around 12pm. Eating together habitually contributes to trust and often eases conversation. We found the free meal also motivated more people to participate in our conversations. Sadly, the lunch arrived over one hour late which disrupted the workshop considerably. Eight people stayed for the meal, and 7 then disappeared. We had to collect the participants again by knocking on their doors, only five returned. We discussed together “identity”, and related topics like prejudices, discrimination and tolerance. They all know about identity and discrimination and are angry because so many people see them as terrorists, certainly in Russia they are always portrayed like that. One of the participants, let’s call him Aslan, angrily leaves the room after what seemed like a disagreement with Vera. The remaining people spoke about how important it was for Chechen people to know by heart their family history, going back the last seven generations. This history is their identity. They have been at war with the Russians already for 500 years.

We were promised by the Chechen that the next day they would come with a much bigger group. We agreed to continue our workshop at 10am.

The next morning nobody showed up. Accompanied by a Social Worker one of us knocks on doors but most of our participants are still in bed. At 11am we finally have three participants and we start to discuss freedom and autonomy. Later two more people join us, until lunch.

Once again, the participants go at length into the intimidation, oppression and violence in Chechnya. Freedom for them means that people are left alone, can do what they want, and can express their opinions without repercussions. At the same time they state we need to respect the word of Allah; His word is final.

We show the participants a TED-talk (with Russian subtitles) of a woman (Manal al-Sharif) who fought for the freedom of women in Saudi Arabia to drive a car. Formally there were no laws forbidding women to drive, it was just cultural custom, however the social reactions to her and her family were ferocious.  The men do not have much sympathy for Manal al-Sharif. They feel that it is the task of the head of the family to decide the right interpretation of the Koran; if the man comes to the conclusion that his wife should not drive a car, then she should respect this. Manal al-Sharif was putting people at risk, as she was rocking the boat.

Vera, however, supports the message of Manal al-Sharif: of course women can and should drive. Thereupon, the three men angrily leave the room, stating they need a cigarette.

After lunch, none of the men return. We want to talk about gender and equality between the sexes. Present are two young veiled women (mobilized by the social workers), Vera, and an agitated man of 51, walking on crutches (he was tortured by crushing one of his feet with a hammer). In the refugee home he is an informal leader. He starts to explain that democracy and human rights are relative. A child has a right on an apple. A grown-up does not. Then he tries to give an overview of the history of democracy, starting with the ancient Greeks. He is shouting, and trying to ensure we don’t think of him as stupid. He wants to talk about democracy, however the topic is women’s rights. After I have explained that we already went into that topic the previous day (a session he did not attend), he furiously leaves the room. The women silently smile at each other.

The next day, the man comes back to apologize, but he does not participate anymore. To the second workshop leader, he later apologizes at length again, also speaking into Google Translate to have his explanations be translated in German. He explained that he, wrongly, assumed that we were specifically targeting him and the two women wearing a hijab, considering them to have a problem. He had missed our introductory explanation on the first day, which had caused a flawed picture of the ideas behind the workshop.

After the man has left, we continue with the three women and two men that came late. However, after about twenty minutes, they too angrily disappear because Vera had told them that they are not supposed to hit their wives. After their disappearance, Aslam, who shows the most curiosity of all men, joins us again. Like Vera, he really seems to enjoy discussing the topics, although he regularly gets so upset that he has to leave.

We give the participants some information on the development of women rights in Germany. Since when are they allowed to vote? Since when are they allowed to go to the university? Since when are they allowed to have a bank account, or to buy a car? Since when can a woman, from a legal perspective, be raped by her husband? We also show the participants statistical data on the percentages of men and women that went to the university, that are in the labor force, and that are in managerial positions. In Germany only 10% of the members of Supervisory Boards are female, and 97% of the members of the Boards of Directors are male. Conversely 51% of university students are female. We also show them data regarding the overrepresentation of women in particular professions, like nursing and teaching.

The women listen attentively. When we ask what could explain these overrepresentations of men or women, they either have no answers, or do not want to share them. We offer them some historical and sociological explanations which Vera rapidly endorses. The other women mostly remain silent, but remark that Vera’s picture of the position of women in their society is too bleak. Then they tell us that their religion forbids them to discuss these issues with men. For the same reason they cannot discuss homosexuality.

On the third day, the three women come to the workshop at 11am, three men arrive later. In the previous days, we had not managed to follow the usual agenda of topics and now try to wrap up many loose ends by discussing the interrelationships between democracy, freedom and human rights. Vera has much to say, the other women remain silent, but seem alert.

One of the men asks us about our religion. What do we believe in? He makes clear that if we do not believe we will not be able to understand him appropriately, and further discussion will not make much sense. We reply that we might have different worldviews or religions, but that we nonetheless share many values and ideas, simply because we are human. Previous discussions showed that: we all know what freedom is, we all have a sense of “democracy”. We can start from there.

On top of that, we reply, in our discussions we speak as citizens and scholars and as such try to base ourselves on empirical observations and logical reasoning. Everything else we might believe in, we do not consider very relevant in this context because ‘beliefs’ cannot be rationally discussed. If we were to ‘believe’ different things regarding democracy, freedom or human rights could we just leave it at that? We would be unable to discuss in a meaningful way how to solve conflicts, how to cooperate and how to live together. However, what we do share are the abilities to make empirical observations and to reason in logical ways. So this should be the basis to deliberate the topics we try to discuss in the workshop. The men do not seem to be completely convinced by this; after the lunch they do not return.

We continue our conversation with a discussion on masculinity. Normally we finish with a discussion on homosexuality, bringing many previous discussion points (freedom, human rights, discrimination, respect) together. In this particular workshop, this topic seems to be out of reach. Alternatively, asking “What is a man?” often stirs a lot of amused, lighthearted discussions. What do we expect of a man? There are three women there and Aslan. Vera explains that a man should decide for himself what is good and bad, and not follow social or cultural conventions. She feels he should focus on his inner world and family and not on society, he should be stable, reliable and responsible. The two other, veiled women are less articulate, but point to the relevance of religion; a good man is devoted. Aslan does not entirely agree with Vera, but at least he does not angrily leave the room.

We ask the people to fill in a short feedback survey. Our Russian translator, a Russian sociologist doing his PhD on the emancipation of women in Russia, translates the questions. Generally, he does an excellent job. He translates very accurately and does not involve himself in any discussions, despite his sympathies for the Chechnyan cause. Generally, because many translators we worked with in the past, could not resist the temptation to become a part of the discussions themselves, we prefer not to work with translators.

The feedback of the four people present is very affirmative. They all would like to participate in future workshops. This is also the feeling with which we leave, not for the first time, the refugee home: we had the sense of just starting the deliberation, we opened some doors, furthered some doubt, built a little bit of trust, empowered some individuals, and found some anchor points from which we could continue to work on insight, understanding and consensus. But even more so than other workshops we have done, it is only a beginning. We would need much more time.

The social workers report to us some weeks later that the workshop had triggered ongoing conversations and discussions on themes that were not talked about before. Therefore, they already considered the workshop worthwhile and effective.

 

*Thanks to Jess Haigh for her excellent editing of this article.

 

[i] Verfassungsschutzbericht Brandenburg 2017. 188ff


Deliberating Homosexuality: Empirical Observations and Analyses


Like many other western countries, Germany still has medical doctors, therapists and priests that believe that homosexuality is an illness that can be cured. For instance, the weekly Der Spiegel recently reported on Gero Winkelmann, a physician and homeopath from Bayern.[1] He is also the chairman of the Bund katholischer Ärzte, an association of Catholic doctors that claims to have 200 members. On its website, the organization offers therapies for homosexuals.[2] Every year up to nine people suffering from this disease ask Winkelmann for healing. The treatment consists of homeopathic substances (i.e., Sulfur and Luesinum Nosode) and extensive prayer and penance.

Winkelmann is not alone. “Conversion therapy” is offered in many evangelical circles in the USA and also in Germany. There is no proof that any therapy ever changed an individual’s sexual orientation.[3] People that are nevertheless sent to or lured into these therapies often leave traumatized: since all this treatment and prayer does not change any feelings of homosexuality, those undergoing this “therapy” must be perverts. For this reason, many practitioners in Germany plea for a law against these conversion therapies.[4] In addition, 61,251 German citizens petitioned the Minister of Health asking for a ban on “Homo-Heilung” in 2018. In Malta, such a law has already existed since 2016: now, suppliers of these therapies can get jailed for half a year.[5] Until now, the German minister has been indecisive. He states not to know how to enforce laws on this matter.

 

Extreme emotions

Homosexuality is likely the most contentious topic in our deliberative workshops – sometimes stirring extreme emotions. Normally we discuss this topic at the very end as it brings many themes together: freedom, autonomy, emancipation, identity, socialization, respect, societal development and human rights. Because we have discussed these themes prior, we have often paved the way for a more reasonable discussion of the topic. Most of the time this works pretty well, but occasionally the aversions run so deep that sensible exchanges turn out to be rather difficult.

 

Yes, we know: the topic is much larger and more complicated than being hetero- or homosexual. Sexuality has a wide spectrum including gays, lesbians, bisexuals, asexuals, pansexuals, polysexuals, transgenders, agenders, bigenders, trigenders, pangenders, and fluid genders. And we are always dealing with a continuum: to different degrees in different periods of their lives people have something from everything. What are “people” anyway? In our workshops, though, we are mostly dealing with participants from German and non-German (sub)cultures where there is only an awareness of the existence of homosexuality. Regularly they also come from cultures, religions, traditions or states where homosexuals are heavily discriminated, prosecuted, jailed, tortured or even killed. So we start there.

 

One of the most bizarre encounters we had was with a group of elder Russlanddeutschen (Russian-Germans) that we met in a big town in Sachsen-Anhalt. These “Spätaussiedler” (“late repatriates”) had come to Germany in the nineties – mainly from Kazakhstan. Their German forebears had lived since the 18th century along the Volga; however, they had been transported by Stalin in the Second World War to Kazakhstan or Siberia under the belief that they were potential Nazi collaborators.[6]

The workshop with these Russian-Germans explodes the moment we announce that we would like to discuss homosexuality. One woman leaves the room immediately in anger. The other participants hardly look at the short, objectively informative Arte-documentary[7] that we show – as if looking at the documentary is already a sin. They simply refuse to delve into the subject. The woman, a primary school teacher turning sixty, returns after ten minutes and, with trembling hands, furiously asks why, for heaven’s sake, we have to discuss this. What has this to do with discrimination, tolerance, freedom, emancipation and all the other topics we had discussed so far? Homosexuals are perverts, it is all politics, these people get more and more public attention and slowly take over the entire society. If we do not do anything, they will soon form a majority. It is a shame. In the community she comes from, there are no homosexuals. None of them have ever met one.

The organizer of the meeting tells us that it would be better not to discuss the topic. The audience, having lived in Germany for about two decades, is not ready for it – despite the fact that most of them are relatively well educated (i.e., one engineer, three teachers, one librarian, one economist and one person describing herself as an “coordinator”).

Still, the survey later showed that two of the German-Russian women were tolerant towards homosexuality. But during the workshop, do not speak up. Five of the ten participants from Russia “completely agree” with the statement that “homosexuality is an illness.” Only two completely disagree. Seven “completely disagree” with the statement: “A homosexual couple has the ability to raise children.” Nobody agrees to some level. Of the five people that are convinced that homosexuality is a disease, two completely disagree that it can be cured. The other three are indecisive. Five people in all completely disagree that homosexuality can be cured. Three of these people are also not sure it is a disease.

In a workshop with Chechen, which was another rather extreme experience, we did not even start the discussion. Chechnya is reported to be the only country in the world with a concentration camp for homosexuals. Despite all the disagreements that these people had with the local tyrant Kadyrov,[8] they did not seem to disagree with the leader fundamentally on the topic of homosexuality. Discussing it seemed to be completely out of reach, and addressing it could have undermined all the consensus we hoped to have achieved on other topics.

In another workshop with people from Kenya and Cameroon, the men showed an almost physical aversion against homosexuals. It was very hard for them to stay calm and concentrated enough to discuss the subject. They had strong emotions without being able to give clear reasons as for why. The women turned out to be more open-minded and understanding. If everybody should become  homosexual, there would be no children, and societies would die out, the men explained. Besides, men choose to become a homosexual, and they are therefore responsible for making this sickening choice. But when people are getting into so much trouble for making this “choice,” why do they ever make this choice, we ask? The men have no answer. One of the women has another explanation of homosexuality: some men slowly develop increasingly female characteristics and emotions and then fall in love with a man. They are born in the wrong body, so to speak, and have been a woman from the inside the whole time. When we ask about the cases of the men with whom they develop a loving relationship, the women lacked an answer.

Religious arguments against homosexuality are absent, as we also noticed with other groups, including with Muslims. Most remarkable is the ignorance regarding LGTB issues. People have strong aversions, and consequently never talk or read about the topic. As a result, they basically have no idea what homosexual, bisexual, or transgender people are.

The extent of these deep-seated prejudices against homosexuality was also illustrated by a workshop with multiplicators (professionals and civil volunteers active in integration work) we had in Schleswig Holstein, in the north of Germany. The group consisted of 18 people. Half of them had a migrant background and identified in the survey as “Muslim.” Some of them had arrived in Germany already two decades ago. The discussions on topics like democracy, pluralism, freedom, respect, identity went very well. The respondents were well-educated, thoughtful and open minded. At the end of our meeting we delved into discussions of homosexuality. Sometimes, we do a little role-play at this section: playing the devil’s advocate, we put forward and defend all the arguments we have heard during our workshops against homosexuality, and ask the participants to explain why these arguments do not hold.

Much to our surprise, and to the embarrassment of the director of the hosting institute, most participants with a migrant background did not seem to understand that we were playing a role. They happily endorsed many of the arguments against homosexuals we put on the table (see below for an overview of these arguments). Concomitantly, the other group of participants was basically unable to convince them that we were wrong. Only two of the nine participants with a migrant background, had answered to the survey question “Homosexuality is an illness that can be cured”[9] with “totally disagree”. The other seven were indecisive (3) agreed (2) or totally agreed (2).[10]

 

Adolescents in a secondary school

In a secondary school in a town East of Berlin we had workshops with a group of 15 students between 15 and 18. Half of the students had a migrant background. The school (a so-called “Schule mit Courage”) actively addresses all forms of discrimination, including racism and anti-Semitism. On the third workshop day we discussed homosexuality. All the pupils stated that they had no personal problems with homosexuals. They did know many people, though, that had strong reservations in this field.

One very articulate boy whose parents originated from Kazakhstan revealed that his best friend really hated gays. But it does not make sense to discuss the topic with him. This is what he believes, how he has been raised, and it is not possible to convince him of something different. Beliefs of people can hardly ever be changed. It is also not his duty, the boy remarked. It is not his responsibility to enlighten people. Ideas in societies change because old generations die out and new generations will have other ideas. When his friend would get violent towards gays, he would intervene, because he is against violence. But he does not intervene when people tell jokes or express prejudices about gays. People also have a right on their own beliefs.

Other pupils except a young man from Afghanistan and a bright Syrian girl did not react. The Afghan young man explained that in his culture and religion homosexuality is strongly forbidden. But, he stressed, this is just an idea. And ideas change. It is just a matter of time.

When asked why people “become” homosexuals, the ideas differed. Some believed it was a choice, some defined it as a disease and some saw it as a natural phenomenon.[11]

When asked why it is relevant to discuss the causes of homosexuality, nobody really seemed to grasp the importance of the topic. People intentionally choosing something can be held responsible for their choice and can be asked to justify this choice, to give reasons for it. But do we ever ask people with blue eyes or black hair to justify themselves? Do we ask heterosexuals to justify their sexual orientation? Why would we ask the same of homosexuals? The students mainly argued that people are free to have their own opinions and preferences, and that we cannot change them. Giving positive reasons or justifications for opinions and preferences regularly overburdened the students, but also the volunteers and the professional social workers that participated in our workshops.

The Syrian girl stated that gays should not marry and should not have children. Only a man and a woman can build a family. Women treat children in different ways than men, and children cannot do without a mother. Some others replied that fathers can often be more kind, caring, warm and protective than mothers. They knew this from their own experience. In homosexual relationships one or even both partners can play the role she exclusively ascribes to women. The Syrian girl does not deny this all. She seems to start doubting.

The same happened after she had explained that homosexuality develops when a man cannot find a wife, a reasoning we have heard several times before: males substitute lacking females. So, in China there will be many homosexuals, the girl suggested. In Germany, though, 51% of the population is female and 8% of the population still states to be homosexual, we counter. Maybe homosexuality is not something people intentionally choose, whether or not in particular circumstances. Homosexual orientations just happen.

 

Growing homophobia

We often noted that aversion against homosexuality was predominantly directed towards males. Many overlooked that females too could have a sexual preference for people of the same sex. The explanation might be, several multiplicators in Neuruppin pondered, that women are supposed to care and love anyway. So why not love another woman too? The much stronger and demanding narrative of masculinity does not allow this liberty: more than females, males have to prove they are “real”, and a real man obviously only loves women.

In several workshops teachers and youth workers reported a growing homophobia, especially among young male adolescents, with or without a migrant background. The explanation was sought in the current youth culture, especially rap-music, and, underlying this, in the growing uncertainties about what it means to be a man.[12] More than in the past, boys feel it necessary to stress that they are “real men,” which is interpreted as not-homosexual. Real men are dominant rulers, homosexuals are spineless weaklings.

 

Lack of knowledge about homosexuality

As was illustrated already above, we encountered often an astonishing lack of knowledge about homosexuality. A young, very intelligent woman from Nicaragua, who had a Master’s in Intercultural Studies and had taught at a university in her native country, believed that homosexuals want to be female and that they all also want to have a sex-operation. Because Germany is such a rich country, this type of operation is more feasible, which explains why there are so many German homosexuals. In the same workshop a highly educated Chinese woman was very eager to hear more about the topic, because in the whole of China there were no homosexuals, at least, as far as she had heard. Both were convinced that people deliberatively choose to become homosexual and both were unaware of the existence of lesbians, bisexuals or trans genders (the QIA in LGBTQIA we left out at this stage).

A group of Afghan young men in a workshop in a town in Brandenburg believed that homosexuality originates in boredom or scarcity. When there are no women available, as in prisons, men live out their lust on other men. But even when men can be with plenty of women, they sometimes get bored and want to try out something else. Thus, especially when the society allows this freedom, they have a relationship with a man for a while. After this experience they usually get back to normal and want to become intimate with women again. The number of homosexuals varies per country, they stated. In Afghanistan these people also exist, but their numbers are way smaller than in Germany. They themselves had never met a homosexual. They also could not imagine ever to become friends with such a person.

 

Inability to counter homophobe reasonings

Overall, many migrants were poorly informed about LGTB. For the most part they predominantly had strong prejudices and intense negative emotions on this topic. In a sense, the native Germans we talked to did not always do fundamentally better. Most of the time they were of the opinion that homosexuality was not a disease, and, consequently, could not and should not be cured (we present some statistical data below). Nevertheless, these relatively well educated multiplicators (i.e., not a representative sample of the population) often had a hard time to give convincing reasons for these opinions.

As said, we often played devil’s advocate and asked the participants to counter arguments we heard against homosexuality. Thus we stated,

  1. that homosexuality is ‘unnatural’;
  2. that reproduction is the natural goal of every species, and only men and women can reproduce themselves;
  3. that only a man and a woman can form a family;
  4. that children need a father and a mother in their life and not (in the case of homosexuals having children) two fathers or two mothers;
  5. that homosexuality is a (loathsome) choice because in some cultures there are many more homosexuals than in others;
  6. that homosexuality spreads more and more and destroys societies;
  7. and that our religion prohibits homosexuality.

The German participants usually “knew” that these standpoints were “untrue,” but often could not formulate in a constructive, convincing way why they thought this was the case. The most used argument was that it is nobody’s business what happens in your bedroom. Although this argument, building on liberal ideas of negative freedom,[13] is not invalid, even in very liberal states we intervene when siblings sleep together, or when mothers sleep with their sons, also when these sons are consenting adults. Therefore, it is helpful to have some more arguments to counter the standpoints cited above:

  1. Regarding the first position – that homosexuality is unnatural – one could counter that homosexuality appears to be widespread in nature. The observation and interpretation of sexual behaviors of animals is obviously heavily steered by paradigmatic assumptions. Consequently, for many years, observers did not want to see these immoral deeds. In our times, though, biologists have observed homo- and bisexual behaviors among many creatures. To name just a few: bison, cats, dogs, elephants, giraffes, foxes, horses, lions, panda’s, raccoons, brown bears, chimpanzees, bonobos, orca’s, dolphins, chickens, ostriches, swans, penguins, seagulls, vultures, ravens, sparrows, chars, graylings, salmons, rattlesnakes, turtles, geckos (I knew it!), lizards, salamanders, frogs, toads, cockroaches, blowflies, fruit flies, red ants, tsetse flies and Southeastern blueberry bees.[14] Besides, one could point to the fact that in the “natural” world also cannibalism exists and the law of the jungle rules. Does this prove we should take over these habits, just because they are “natural”? What is “natural” anyway? What does a “natural” life look like? Is it “natural” to live in cities, to go to work every day, to eat meat, to invent the atomic bomb?
  2. Do we really have to reproduce ourselves? Aren’t there enough people? Can’t we think this over, and does this thinking not make us different? Not so long ago, families in the Western world had many more children than today. What were the possible social and economic reasons for this? Are parents that choose to have only two children, although biologically and economically they could have many more, in some way “immoral”? Is reproduction the only goal of sex? Can’t we have sex without this goal? How does this look like in the animal world?
  3. What exactly is a family and why would two men or two women be unable to create and upheld the values that we associate with “family”?
  4. On average there might be biologically caused differences between men and women (what exactly are these?), but some men are more “feminine” than most women and some women are more “masculine” than most men. Consequently, the qualities that many associate with males can be cared for by a woman in a lesbian relationship. Besides, it takes a village to raise a child. Qualities needed in raising children can partly be provided by the social environment.
  5. When homosexuality really is a choice, why have so many people made this choice despite the fact that, certainly in the past, the results of this choice were often disastrous: homosexuals have been tortured and murdered, have been put in concentration camps, were sent to psychiatrists, priests and homeopaths, were abandoned by their families and friends, have severely been discriminated, are reported to have much higher suicide rates and a higher risk on mental health issues? Why would somebody ever do this, when he has the option to stay straight?[15] Might it not be that homosexuality just happens and that it does not help to suppress these feelings, despite the fact that many people in many cultures are trying to do that, out of fear of the consequences when they come out of the closet? Besides, when homosexuality is a choice, and a wrong choice at that, the assumption seems to be that being heterosexual is “normal”. Therefore, 5 to 8 per cent of the population practices sexual activities that the individuals, at the end of the day, do not really “like,” because they are intrinsically Is this not a bit implausible?
  6. We found that the fear that the world is increasingly populated by homosexuals – especially without immediate intervention – is prominent in many of our conversations with people from Africa. The idea seems to be that homosexuality is contagious and is spreading like a disease. Aids and homosexuality regularly are conflated here. Homosexuality is not a disease though and does not spread via infections. It also does not spread via reproduction, rearing, nurturing or education. This all explains why the percentage of homosexuals of the total population is fairly constant (somewhere between 5 and 8%). That there are countries like Hungary that report to have only 1.5% of homosexuals,[16] says more about the local discrimination and oppression of homosexuality than about its occurrence.
  7. My religion, and the holy book that supports it, tells me that homosexuality is a sin. Remarkably, this argument was not often brought up. People tried to give arguments like the ones above, referred to culture and tradition, or to their stomach (“it’s sickening!”). One could reply that interpretations of holy books vary and change, and that religions are adapting constantly to changing environments and insights. The original formulations of religions do not just reflect eternal and universal truths, but also local circumstances and needs. In general, references to religions are of course not always helpful when one wants to, or needs to, live together with people that have different belief systems. What we have in common, though, are our abilities to observe and to reason. We have a higher chance to find the necessary minimal consensus in this sphere than in the sphere of conflicting exegeses of competing holy books. 

Concluding remarks

What can we achieve with deliberating homosexuality for 90 minutes? The emotions run deep on this topic. We are talking about sex and identity. First and foremost, it seems important to inform people, natives and newcomers, about the issues at stake. Talking and informing about the topic prepares the foundation for acceptance and respect, already by making clear that we can sensibly and coherently argue about sexual orientations, that there is no reason to treat it as a taboo.

It is crucial to present the facts as clearly as possible.[17] Homosexuality is not a disease, it is not a mental disorder, it is not contagious; it is a “normal” condition that cannot and should not be “cured,” and no third person gets harmed. That is precisely why we have no good arguments to deprive these people of their human rights. They should be as free and equal as heterosexuals and should be treated with the same tolerance that we treat other various life paths that we might not have chosen for ourselves or been naturally disposed to, but which can co-exist alongside our own path. Stating and explaining the facts and connecting the issue to the fundamental themes of freedom, autonomy, emancipation, respect and human rights is the most one can achieve with an issue that is, for many people, as contentious and emotional as homosexuality. But when that conversation is done, we may already have moved more than one might think possible.

*Many thanks to Jeanne Lenders and Christina Pao for their comments on a draft of this article. Special thanks to Christina for her editing.

 

Empirical data

Data from 2017 (in collaboration with Alexandra Johansen)

In 2017 we asked 150 participants, half of them German multiplicators, to respond to the statement “Homosexuality is a disease that can be cured”.  As remarked before, we implicitly assumed that people who think that homosexuality is a disease, also think that it can be cured. Obviously, logically these are two different questions, so in 2018 we separated them. People who do not believe that homosexuality is a disease, also do not believe that it can be cured: there is nothing to heal. But people thinking it is a disease can either believe it can be cured or not. Our 2018 survey shows that some people indeed make this difference. Nevertheless, we have the strong impression that most people that were asked the first question concentrate in their answer on the illness, and not on the possible healing.

Our analyses of the data of 2017 show that homosexuality is the issue where Germans and non-Germans differ the most. They have their disagreements regarding democracy, freedom, gender and many other issues that we discuss in our workshops (we report on that separately), but homosexuality stands out. The mean score of the 75 German respondents was 1.053 (1 = totally disagree; 5 = totally agree) with a standard deviation of 0.28. The mean score of the 74 non-German respondents was 2.743 with a standard deviation of 1.57. Most negative on homosexuals were the 22 participants from the Middle East (mean 3.5), followed by the 21 participants from Afghanistan (mean 3.05), the 15 participants from North and East Africa (mean 2.7) and participants from other countries like Mexico, Sri Lanka, Niger and the Netherlands (mean 1.17). The standard deviation of the answers of the non-Germans ranged from 1.24 to 1.63. One explanation for this deviation was that some participating refugees were (mostly silent) homosexuals themselves.

The differences between Germans and non-Germans also hold when we control for age, gender, profession/education and religion. Thus the country (or better: culture) of origin is decisive for the attitude towards homosexuality.

 

Data from 2018 (in collaboration with Raíssa Silveira)

In 2018 we asked multiplicators in Germany to respond to three different statements:

  • (item 24) Homosexuality is an illness.
  • (item 30) A homosexual couple has the ability to raise children.
  • (item 34) Homosexuality can be cured.

The respondents could answer on a scale from 1 (completely disagree) to 5 (completely agree). 103 participants answered the questions. 12 people were Russian-Germans. 17 other people had a migration background. The results were as follow:

81.6% of all respondents completely disagreed and 5% disagreed that homosexuality is an illness. 4% maintained a neutral position, 2% agreed and almost 8% answered “completely agree”. The mean answer is 1.5.

Compared to the previous statement, the responses to the statement that a homosexual couple has the ability to raise children, were less liberal. 62% of the respondents “completely agreed” and 11% “agreed”, adding up to 73% of positive answers. Neutral answers represent another 11% of the total. 15% of the respondents “completely disagreed” with this statement and 2% “disagree”. The mean answer is 4.

72% of the participants completely disagreed with the statement that homosexuality can be cured. 3% of them disagreed, 8% were not certain and only 2% “completely agreed”. Consequently, in total 10% was supporting or was probably willing to try out a conversion therapy. As a comparison with the first question shows, the number of people who agree that homosexuality is an illness, is bigger than the number who believe that it can be cured. This confirms that it was helpful to split the previous years’ survey statement. In the chart, “8” stands for missing answers and represents 13% of the total. Most of these respondents had first completely disagreed with the statement that homosexuality is an illness. For them, as several wrote on the form or told us, the question whether it can be cured was therefore nonsensical.

Which variables explain the different responses?

The most important variable is the place of origin: native Germans versus Russian Germans and other migrants.

As we found in 2017, in our group of participants, age, religion or gender hardly influence the views on homosexuality.

The very same tendencies we could observe regarding the responses to the statement “women should have the same rights as men”: the place or culture of origin is decisive.

So when we relate the answers to the first question – homosexuality is an illness – to the place of origin, the graph looks like this:

And when we relate the answers to the second question – a homosexual couple has the ability to raise children – to the place of origin, the graph looks like this:

The Means and the Standard Deviations for the three questions are as follows:

 

 

Notes

[1] Marco Karp and Christoph Koopmann. Diagnose lesbisch. Der Spiegel. 5.1.2019

[2] https://www.bkae.org/index.php?id=1005

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_therapy

[4] Frank Ulrich Montgomery, Präsident der Bundesärztekammer, declared in Der Spiegel: „Da Homosexualität keine Krankheit ist, kann und darf sie auch nicht behandelt werden“. (Since homosexuality is not a disease, it cannot and should not be treated).

[5] The new law imposes fines and jail terms “on those advertising, offering, performing or referring an individual to another person which performs” any practice “which aims to change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” It said “no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort.” Liam Stack. Malta outlaws ‘conversion Therapy’, a first in Europe. New York Times. 7.12.2016.  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/07/world/europe/malta-outlaws-conversion-therapy-transgender-rights.html

[6] We will come back to this workshop in another article. On this group of migrants, the Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung offers valuable information: http://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/migration/russlanddeutsche/

[7] Mit offenen Karten: Homosexualität – Welches Recht auf Anderssein? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WhC-RYU-tk

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/14/chechnya-two-dead-and-dozens-held-in-lgbt-purge-reports ; http://www.eatg.org/news/chechnya-opens-worlds-first-concentration-camp-for-homosexuals-since-hitlers-in-the-1930s/ ; https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/a-damning-new-report-on-lgbt-persecution-in-chechnya

[9] In our first survey we implicitly assumed that people who think that homosexuality is a disease, also believe that it can be cured. Obviously, logically these are two different questions, so in 2018 we separated them. People who believe that homosexuality is not a disease, also do not believe that it can be cured: there is nothing to heal. But people thinking it is a disease can either believe it can be cured or not. Our later survey shows that some people indeed make this difference. Nevertheless, we have the strong impression that most people that were asked the first question concentrate in their answer on the illness, and not on the possible healing.

[10] The survey also shows that the very same people that see homosexuality as a disease, were also agreeing with the statement “There are professions which should only be done by men or women”.

[11] Fourteen people reacted to the statement in the survey “Homosexuality is an illness that can be cured”. On a scale from 1 to 5, ten replied “completely disagree” (1). One replied with “completely agree” (5). Two replied with 2, and one with 4.

[12] See also: The crisis of masculinities – a brief overview by Jeanne Lenders.  http://socialscienceworks.org/2018/05/the-crisis-of-masculinities-a-brief-overview/

[13] Berlin 1958; Blokland 1997.

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals

[15] Cf. Dean Burnett. 2015. Why would people ‚choose‘ to be gay? The Guardian. January 8 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2015/jan/08/homosexuality-gay-choice-psychology. Burnett cites another great counter argument for those who believe that homosexuality is a chosen life style: “if you genuinely believe sexuality is a choice, then you’re not actually straight, you just haven’t met anyone persuasive enough yet.”

[16] https://infographic.statista.com/normal/chartoftheday_6466_europe_s_lgbt_population_mapped_n.jpg

[17] cf. Blokland, Hans and Nils Wadt. 2018. Deliberative Wertevermittlung: Ein Leitfaden. Potsdam. BAMF/SSW. p.19-21.


Eindrücke aus der Deliberation – Über die Feedback Forschung unserer Workshops.


Hans Blokland und Raíssa Silveira

 

Seit 2016 hat Social Science Works fast vierzig Reihen deliberativer Workshops mit Flüchtlingen und heimischen Bürgern durchgeführt. In unseren Workshops versuchen wir gemeinsam mit den Teilnehmern, vor allem durch das stellen von Fragen Diskussionen zu füttern, und ein Verständnis für die zentralen Werte einer offenen, demokratischen Gesellschaft zu entwickeln: Was sind diese Werte, wie können sie verteidigt werden, wie hängen sie zusammen? Wie können sie als ein verflochtenes Muster von Werten und Einsichten für ein (soziales) Leben verstanden und begründet werden? Wir diskutieren unter anderem ethischen und politischen Pluralismus, Monismus, Demokratie, Freiheit (der Meinungsäußerung, Vereinigung und Religion), persönliche Autonomie, Toleranz, Menschenrechte, Identität, Diskriminierung, Rassismus, Männlichkeit, Weiblichkeit, Geschlechtergleichheit und Homosexualität (Eine Übersicht finden Sie hier).

Zu unseren deliberativen Workshops haben wir unter Anderem, “Wie deliberiert man fundamentale Werte? Bericht aus Brandenburg über unsere Ansätze, Herangehensweisen und Erfahrungen“; und, für unmäßigere Umstände, „Das Anfechten extremer Wahrheitsansprüche: wie man mit monistischen Denker über die offene pluralistische Gesellschaft deliberiert“, veröffentlicht. Wir hoffen auch, dass die Deliberation eine Rolle bei der Verhinderung von Radikalisierung spielen kann: „Radikalisierung Entgegenwirken: Was die Forschung von Deliberation und Radikalisierung uns lehrt“.

Neben 14 Workshop Reihen mit Flüchtlingen aus unter Anderem Afghanistan, Tschetschenien, Syrien, Iran, Irak, Nigeria, Ghana, Kamerun, Kenia und Eritrea, organisierten wir 22 Workshop Reihen mit Ehrenamtlichen und professionellen Sozialarbeitern, die die Integration von Flüchtlingen in die Deutsche Gesellschaft unterstützen. Wie in den anderen Workshops trafen wir uns im Durchschnitt für etwa fünfzehn Stunden mit zwölf Teilnehmern und diskutierten dieselben Themen, sowie darüber, wie diese mit einheimischen und kürzlich angekommenen Bürgern so besprochen werden können, dass Einsicht, Verständnis und Konsens erzielt werden kann.

Bislang haben wir Workshops mit deutschen Bürgern in Brandenburg, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Rheinland-Pfalz, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern und Hamburg organisiert. Die Workshops mit Flüchtlingen fanden alle in Brandenburg statt. Insgesamt haben wir uns intensiv mit etwa 250 heimischen Bürgern und 200 Flüchtlingen unterhalten.

Die allgemeinen Ziele von Social Science Works bestehen darin, neue Wege einer sinnvollen Bürgerbeteiligung zu entwickeln, sowie neue Strategien zur Stärkung der bürgerlichen und politischen Kompetenzen zu durchdenken. Wir versuchen, die Integration und die demokratische Partizipation zu fördern und dem Populismus sowie Radikalisierungsprozessen entgegenzuwirken. Um dies voranzutreiben, brauchen wir Erkenntnisse darüber wie Menschen an Deliberationen teilnehmen können, die Einsicht, gegenseitiges Verständnis und Konsens bringen. Daher erforschen wir die Wirkungen von deliberativen Workshops, die Motivation der Bürger zur Teilnahme, sowie die politischen Werte von Neuankömmlingen und Heimischen Bürgern. Wir sammeln große Datenmengen (durch Umfragen, partizipative Beobachtungen und Interviews), die zu unserem Wissen über Deliberation, Demokratisierung und Integration beitragen können.

In der Zukunft werden wir eine Reihe von Aufsätzen zu unseren empirischen Beobachtungen und Analysen veröffentlichen. Neben eher ethnographischen Beschreibungen der Workshops werden auch statistische Analysen der Umfragen durchgeführt, die viele unserer Teilnehmer ausgefüllt haben. Dabei wurden die Teilnehmenden nach ihren Überzeugungen und Wertvorstellungen zu den Themen gefragt, die wir normalerweise in unseren Workshops diskutieren, sowie über ihre Erfahrungen in den Workshops.

In diesem ersten Artikel geben wir einen Überblick über die Ergebnisse der Feedback-Formulare, die die Teilnehmer am Ende der Workshops ausfüllen.[1] Zuerst stellen wir aber einige Überlegungen zur Deliberationsforschung vor.

 

Forschung zur Deliberation: einige Fallstricke.

In Bezug auf deliberative Veranstaltungen und Workshops gibt es viele Fragen (die jedoch nicht immer leicht zu beantworten sind). Es kann z.B. zu folgenden Themen geforscht werden: optimale institutionelle, kulturelle und persönliche Bedingungen für die Deliberation (von Parteiensystemen bis zu Kulturen und Persönlichkeitstypen); den Deliberationsprozess selbst (unter der Annahme, dass die Deliberation eine unabhängige Wirkung hat, können wir untersuchen, was tatsächlich geschieht, wenn die Leute deliberieren und ob wir dies durch eine andere Weise von Deliberation beeinflussen können); und die Ergebnisse (cf. Bächtiger und Wyss 2013). Diese Ergebnisse können vielfältig sein: Die Präferenzen können sich ändern; die Präferenzen können besser informiert und kohärenter werden; Menschen können andere Positionen besser verstehen, ihre Toleranz und ihr Respekt können zunehmen und sie können eher bereit sein, eine Vereinbarung oder einen Kompromiss zu erzielen. Die Menschen können außerdem mehr Vertrauen in ihre eigenen politischen Fähigkeiten, in die Fähigkeiten anderer und in die Demokratie selbst gewinnen.

Es versteht sich von selbst, dass die methodischen Herausforderungen für diese Art von Forschung enorm sind: Die Anzahl der Variablen, die Anzahl ihrer Interaktionen, sowie das Problem, viele Variablen auf sinnvolle Weise zu „messen“, machen es schwer, feste Schlussfolgerungen zu ziehen. Was wir jedoch finden können, sind einige plausible Tendenzen.

Was möchten wir mit den Workshops erreichen? Und was sollten wir dafür „messen“? Zunächst wollen wir zeigen und erfahren, dass es möglich, nützlich, aufschlussreich und sogar unterhaltsam ist, mit anderen Bürgerinnen und Bürgern grundlegende Werte, Ideen und Perspektiven zu diskutieren, über die in unseren Gesellschaften oft zu wenig oder gar nicht gesprochen wird. Es ist eine allgemeine Erfahrung in Bezug auf Bürgerschaft, Deliberation, Reflexion, Höflichkeit, soziale und politische Partizipation, die hoffentlich den Boden für viele weitere Deliberationen ebnet.

Ziel unserer deliberativen Workshops ist es daher nicht nur, grundlegende Ideen und Werte zu vermitteln, sondern ein soziales Umfeld zu schaffen, in dem die Menschen diese Ideen und Werte frei und respektvoll diskutieren können. Wir bieten eine Erfahrung und Schulung in der Kommunikation von oft sehr sensiblen Themen an, die zu Missverständnissen, Reibungen, Konflikten und Radikalisierungen führen können. Die Workshops sollen Menschen, Migranten sowie Einheimischen helfen, Ideen, Werte, Orientierungen und Gewohnheiten, die oft implizit bleiben und sich zu unproduktiven und störenden Konflikten entwickeln, in respektvoller Weise auszudrücken und offen zu diskutieren. Wir versuchen Reibungen aufzulösen bevor sie zu unüberschaubaren Kontroversen werden.

Wir können nicht sicher sein, dass alle Teilnehmer alles verstehen, was in unseren Deliberationen besprochen wird. Aber auch wenn nicht alles vollständig verstanden wird, ist die Erfahrung, dass man über diese Art von Themen vernünftig reden kann, unerlässlich. Die Diskussionen über Homosexualität sind ein extremes Beispiel: Viele Leute sprechen nie über das Thema, es ist ein Tabu. Einige Teilnehmer haben eventuell zum ersten Mal offen darüber gesprochen. Vielleicht haben wir ihre Meinung nicht geändert. Wir haben aber gezeigt, dass man eine konsistente, kohärente Diskussion darüber führen kann. Der Rest kommt hoffentlich später.

Zu guter Letzt wollen wir am Ende Zweifel wecken, Risse bilden und einige Fenster zum Nachdenken öffnen. Indem wir uns mit Demokratie, ethischem und politischem Pluralismus, Freiheit, Toleranz oder Identität befassen, zeigen wir, dass es nicht viel gibt, über das wir wirklich sicher und deshalb dogmatisch sein können. Werte kollidieren und müssen abgewogen werden. Werte haben unter verschiedenen Umständen unterschiedliche Gewichte. Daher ist dieser Prozess des Abwägens ein kontinuierliches und unendliches Unterfangen. Wir wollen und brauchen Freiheit, weil es keine ewigen, universellen Wahrheiten gibt, wie man sein Leben gestalten soll. Wir wollen und brauchen Demokratie grundsätzlich aus demselben Grund: Wir brauchen ein Verfahren, um Kompromisse und Vereinbarungen zu erzielen, weil die Menschen unterschiedliche, regelmäßig konkurrierende Ideen, Interessen und Werte haben und weil es keine ‚Philosophenkönig‘ oder andere Diktator gibt, der auf alle Fragen eine universell richtige Antwort hat. Identitäten sind in erheblichem Maße das Produkt zufälliger Zeiten und Orte; sie sind flexibel und verändern sich. Autonomie bedeutet, dass man den Einfluss der Faktoren, unter welchen die Identität gebildet wurde, versteht.

Folglich ist vieles fließend, instabil und im Prozess der Veränderung. Alle Demokratie, Pluralismus, Freiheit oder Respekt beruhen am Ende auf Zweifeln, und auf das Verständnis, dass es keine endgültigen, universellen und ewigen Antworten auf viele der Fragen gibt, mit denen wir uns in unserem (sozialen) Leben befassen müssen. Dies bedeutet jedoch nicht, dass alles geht: Im Gegenteil, es besteht ein ständiges Bedürfnis, wieder und wieder, die Fragen und Antworten durchzusprechen, und wir können dies auf vernünftige, fruchtbare Weise tun.

Nun, wie soll man das alles erforschen? Zuerst, Menschen ändern ihre Meinung nicht leicht, und selbst wenn sie ihre Meinung geändert haben, werden sie dies nicht ohne weiteres feststellen, geschweige denn zugeben. Daher ist es sehr schwer herauszufinden, inwieweit die Menschen während der Deliberationen zu neuen Schlüssen gekommen sind. Wir versuchen dies nicht zu beantworten indem wir, zum Beispiel die Teilnehmer am Ende unserer Workshops einfach fragen wie sehr sie sich verändert haben. Sie wissen es nicht, sie wollen es nicht sagen, und Änderungen könnten später, viel später, im Hintergrund erscheinen. Möglicherweise sind die beobachteten Meinungsänderungen zudem nur das Ergebnis von Sozialisation, Gruppendruck und Konformismus (vgl. Rosenberg 2014). Vielleicht glauben die Menschen, die ihre Meinung geändert scheinen zu haben, nicht „wirklich“ an ihre neue Position. Aber glaubten sie dann „wirklich“ an ihren alten Standpunkt?[2]

Darüber hinaus: Wie kann untersucht werden, ob Menschen ihre eigenen Positionen kritischer befragen, ein besseres Verständnis für die erkenntnistheoretischen Grenzen ihrer Standpunkte und somit ein besseres Verständnis der Grundlagen von Pluralismus, Demokratie, Freiheit, Respekt und Toleranz bekommen haben? Und wie lässt sich untersuchen, ob Menschen trotz dieses Verständnisses fest in der Lage sind, pluralistische, demokratische, tolerante, aufgeschlossene Positionen zu verteidigen? Wie kann man diesen substantiell rationellen Qualitäten auf eine bedeutungsvolle Weise ermessen? Es ist möglich, einige Tendenzen zu erforschen, und wir haben hier einige Ideen. Die Forschungsergebnisse bleiben jedoch immer Indikativ.[3]

Die Forschungsdebatte zur Deliberation ähnelt ein wenig der Debatte über die Kunstförderung. Kunst kann viele wichtige Auswirkungen haben, die ebenfalls kaum zu messen sind: Kunst kann ein soziales Labor sein, in dem neue Formen und Gedanken entwickelt und getestet werden, Kunst kann uns helfen, mit dem Unvereinbaren in Einklang zu kommen, Kunst kann uns mit einer unerwarteten Schönheit in einem barbarischen Dasein bewegen, Kunst kann Wahrheiten auf kraftvolle, evokative Weise ausdrücken, Wahrheiten, die mit nichtästhetischen Mitteln nur unzureichend ausgedrückt werden können. Wir alle wissen in gewissem Sinne, dass dies wahr ist. Wenn wir Glück hatten, lernten wir dies durch die Erfahrung vieler künstlerischer Ausdrücke. Es gibt keine wirkliche Notwendigkeit, dies zu “beweisen”. In einem Zeitalter der “evidenzbasierten Politik” fallen wir jedoch allzu oft in die Versuchung, quantitative Nachweise dafür zu liefern, dass Kunstsubventionen eine gute Investition von Steuereinnahmen sind. Regelmäßig landen wir dann bei Untersuchungen die beweisen, dass Kunstsubventionen gut für den Tourismus sind (vgl. Blokland 2013).

 

Feedback

Trotz aller methodischen Probleme haben wir versucht, relevantes Feedback von unseren Teilnehmern zu erhalten. Wie gesagt, die Workshops sollen den Teilnehmern zeigen, dass die Diskussion mit den Mitbürgern über die grundlegenden Themen, die wir auf die Tagesordnung setzen, Aufklärung, Bindung und Unterhaltung bieten kann. Hoffentlich haben sie das Gefühl, sie hätten ihr Verständnis für bestimmte Themen und deren Zusammenhänge verbessert. Hoffentlich haben sie nach fünfzehn Stunden Deliberation das Gefühl, dass es sich lohnt, sich mit den Mitbürgern über diese Fragen zu unterhalten. Und hoffentlich würden sie gerne wieder an solchen Veranstaltungen teilnehmen.

In unserem Feedback Formular haben wir sechs indirekte Fragen zu den Erfahrungen unserer Teilnehmer gestellt. Weil die meisten unserer Teilnehmer äußerst höfliche und unterstützende Leute waren, sind sehr direkte Fragen, wie „Haben Sie im Workshop etwas gelernt?“ Oder „Denken Sie, dass der Moderator gute Arbeit geleistet hat?“, wenig aufschlussreich. Wahrscheinlich ermisst man mit diesen Fragen vor Allem wie nett die verschiedenen Teilnehmergruppen waren. Deshalb haben wir sie mehr indirekt gefragt:

 

  1. Die wichtigsten Punkte zu jedem Thema wurden in den Gruppendiskussionen behandelt. (1 stimme überhaupt nicht zu – 5 stimme voll zu)
  2. Ich fand viele Kommentare anderer Leute hilfreich für meine eigene Perspektive zu diesen Themen. (1 stimme überhaupt nicht zu – 5 stimme voll zu)
  3. Ich habe festgestellt, dass Menschen mit unterschiedlichen Ansichten oft sehr gute Gründe für ihre Ansichten hatten. (1 stimme überhaupt nicht zu – 5 stimme voll zu)
  4. Ich glaube, dass ich einige Themen besser verstanden habe. (1 stimme überhaupt nicht zu – 5 stimme voll zu)
  5. Ich glaube, dass ich ein besseres Verständnis entwickeln konnte, wie bestimmte Themen zusammenhängen. (1 stimme überhaupt nicht zu – 5 stimme voll zu)
  6. Ich würde noch einmal in einem Programm wie diesem teilnehmen. (1 stimme überhaupt nicht zu – 5 stimme voll zu)[4]

 

Den Teilnehmern der Workshops für Flüchtlinge wurden außerdem drei offene Fragen gestellt:

 

  1. Gibt es bestimmte Werte, Traditionen oder Meinungen in Deutschland, die Sie sehr anders als Ihre eigenen wahrnehmen und es für Sie schwerer machen, hier leben zu können?
  2. Wurden Themen behandelt, die Ihnen unangenehm waren und die sie nicht gerne besprochen haben?
  3. Gab es andere Themen, über die Sie gerne geredet hätten und die nicht thematisiert wurden?

 

Nicht viele Leute beantworteten diese offenen Fragen. In der Antwort auf Frage 8 wurde häufig (4-mal) “Homosexualität” erwähnt. Dieses Thema verursachte regelmäßig Unruhe (wir werden darüber gesondert berichten). Bezüglich Frage 7, schrieben mehrere Personen, dass Rassismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit sie beunruhigten. Und in Bezug auf die letzte Frage gaben mehrere Befragte an, sie hätten gerne etwas mehr über die deutsche Kultur und Geschichte gesprochen. Insbesondere wollten die Befragten mehr darüber erfahren, wie sie mit Deutschen in Kontakt treten könnten. Der (niederländische) Moderator und Autor dieses Artikels wusste es auch nicht.

 

Ergebnisse

2018 wurden 73 Feedback Formulare nach Workshops mit Multiplikatoren, deutschen Freiwilligen und Fachleuten gesammelt, die Neuankömmlingen bei der Integration in die deutsche Gesellschaft unterstützen. Wir haben das in Westdeutschland gemacht (Andernach, Germersheim, Osthofen, Köln und Hamburg) und im Osten (Berlin-Lichtenberg, Neuruppin, Delitzsch und Haldensleben). 2017 hatten wir weniger Workshops für Multiplikatoren. Wir haben 52 Rückmeldungen von Teilnehmern in Neuss, Mettmann, Kiel und Berlin (Neuköln)[5] im Westen sowie von Teilnehmern in Jüterbog und Babelsberg im Osten erhalten. Zu guter Letzt haben wir 2017 und 2018 41 Rückmeldungen von den Teilnehmern unserer Workshops für Flüchtlinge gesammelt. Diese fanden in Babelsberg, Luckau, Groß Glienicke (2x), Potsdam, Bad Belzig, Eggersdorf, Teltow, Waßmannsdorf und Fürstenwalde (2x) statt.[6] [5] Folglich beträgt die Gesamtzahl der Rückmeldungen 166.

 

Rückmeldung der Multiplikatoren in 2017 und 2018

125 Personen beantworteten 6 verschiedene Fragen. Insgesamt haben wir also 750 Antworten. 74.3% von diesen 750 Antworten waren positiv. Man hatte also mit “stimme zu”(47.6%), oder mit “stimme voll zu” (26.7%) geantwortet. Nur 8% von allen Antworten waren negativ (3% „stimme überhaupt nicht zu“). Neutrale Antworten machen 18% aus, sind jedoch bei jeder Frage sehr unterschiedlich, wie wir in den folgenden Daten sehen können. Mittelwert für alle Fragen zusammen ist 3.98/5, was wir als sehr ermutigend betrachten.

 

1. Die wichtigsten Punkte zu jedem Thema wurden in den Gruppendiskussionen behandelt.

Die durchschnittliche Antwort auf diese Frage ist 4.3/5. 89% der Befragten stimmten zu, dass die relevanten Punkte von den Gruppendiskussionen abgedeckt wurden. Die sehr geringe Anzahl besonders negativer Antworten (1.5%) kam wie bei den anderen Fragen hauptsächlich von Teilnehmern eines Workshops in Delitzsch, Sachsen (später werden wir zusätzlich einige qualitative Beschreibungen unserer Workshops veröffentlichen, in denen wir auch die abweichenden Erfahrungen in dieser Kleinstadt erläutern).

 

2. Ich fand viele Kommentare anderer Leute hilfreich für meine eigene Perspektive zu diesen Themen.

Die durchschnittliche Antwort auf diese Frage ist 4, wobei 81% der Befragten auf einer bestimmten Ebene der Meinung waren, dass die Kommentare anderer Personen, konstruktiv für die eigenen Meinungen und Ansichten waren.

 

3. Ich habe festgestellt, dass Menschen mit unterschiedlichen Ansichten oft sehr gute Gründe für ihre Ansichten hatten.

Wie bei der vorherigen Feedback-Frage ist ein wünschenswertes Ergebnis einer Deliberation, dass man die Gründe der Meinungen und Ansichten anderer erfasst und versteht. Die durchschnittliche Antwort auf diese Frage ist 3.66, wobei 62.7% der Befragten der Meinung sind, dass andere Teilnehmende ihre Ansichten gut begründen konnten. Wenn wir die Antworten auf die zweite und dritte Frage mit den anderen Antworten vergleichen, scheint es als wären die Teilnehmer mit dem Workshop selbst etwas zufriedener als mit den Beiträgen der anderen Teilnehmer. Wir freuen uns, dass der Input der Moderatoren anscheinend geschätzt wurde. Idealerweise wäre ihre Rolle in einer gut entwickelten pluralistischen Demokratie jedoch unbedeutend.

 

4. Ich glaube, dass ich einige Themen besser verstanden habe.

 

Die durchschnittliche Antwort auf diese Frage ist 3,88, wobei 70% der Befragten der Meinung waren, dass die Diskussionen hilfreich waren, um ein besseres Verständnis der besprochenen Themen zu erreichen.

 

5. Ich glaube, ich habe ein besseres Verständnis dafür entwickelt, wie bestimmte Themen zusammenhängen.

Die durchschnittliche Antwort auf diese Frage ist 3.94, wobei 75% der Befragten (vollständig) zustimmen, dass sie ein besseres Verständnis der Zusammenhänge zwischen den Themen entwickelt haben. Dies ist ein ermutigendes Ergebnis, da wir insbesondere versuchen, die Einsicht zu fördern, wie Definitionen und Begründungen von (“Wesentlich umstrittene”) Begriffe wie Pluralismus, Demokratie, Freiheit, Emanzipation und Respekt zusammenhängen.

 

6. Ich würde noch einmal an einem Programm wie diesem teilnehmen.

Die durchschnittliche Antwort auf diese Frage ist 4.1, wobei 79% der Befragten zustimmen oder vollständig zustimmen, dass sie an anderen Deliberationen teilnehmen möchten. Natürlich ist dieses Ergebnis nicht weniger ermutigend: Wir hoffen, dass die Teilnehmer erfahren, dass die Diskussion grundlegender Probleme mit Mitbürgern nicht nur aufschlussreich, sondern auch unterhaltsam ist.

 

Unterschiede zwischen West- und Ostdeutschland

Gibt es Unterschiede zwischen den Rückmeldungen der Teilnehmer in West und Ost Deutschland? In Übereinstimmung mit unseren Erfahrungen während der Workshops fanden wir tatsächlich Unterschiede.[7]

In Bezug auf die erste Frage (die wichtigsten Punkte zu jedem Thema wurden in den Gruppendiskussionen behandelt), waren die Menschen im Westen positiver als die im Osten: Im Westen waren 51,3% “völlig einverstanden”, im Osten 34,1%. Im Westen “stimmten” 95% der Befragten zu oder “stimmten völlig zu”, im Osten waren es 78% der Befragten.

Fanden die Leute die Kommentare anderer Leute hilfreich für ihre eigene Perspektive zu den von uns diskutierten Themen (Frage 2)? Wir beobachten hier vergleichbare Tendenzen: Im Osten stimmten 17% der Teilnehmer völlig zu, im Westen waren es 28%. Der Prozentsatz der Personen, die “einverstanden” waren, betrug in beiden Fällen etwa 56%. Mehr Menschen im Osten als im Westen antworteten neutral, oder beurteilten die Beiträge anderer Teilnehmer negativ.

Die dritte Frage “Ich habe festgestellt, dass Menschen mit unterschiedlichen Ansichten oft sehr gute Gründe für ihre Ansichten hatten”, erhielt die meisten negativen Antworten in der Rückmeldung. Diese Zahl war jedoch trotzdem relativ gering: Rund 68% der Befragten im Osten und 54% im Westen stimmten der Aussage zu. Im Osten stimmten 20% und im Westen 36% weder zu, noch widersprachen ihr.

Was ist aus diesen etwas anderen Ergebnissen zu machen? Versuchten die Menschen im Osten gegenüber den Standpunkten anderer etwas positiver zu sein, weil sie der Meinung sind, dass Standpunkte, die in der Öffentlichkeit besonders mit dem Osten assoziiert worden (die Unterstützung populistischer Standpunkte ist im Osten etwa doppelt so groß wie im Westen) stigmatisiert worden? Diesen Eindruck haben wir während der Workshops bekommen. Im Westen machten sich viele Menschen Sorgen über populistische Tendenzen, die sie besonders im Osten beobachteten, und waren mit den jeweiligen Ansichten und Meinungen weniger geduldig. Dies könnte in ihren Antworten eine Rolle gespielt haben. Die Frage war jedoch, wie sie die Begründungen für die unterschiedlichen Ansichten schätzen, die die Leute im Workshop gaben.

Mehr als im Osten glaubten die westlichen Teilnehmer, “sie hätten ein besseres Verständnis für einige Themen entwickelt” (Frage 4). Fast 80% der Teilnehmer im Westen antworteten “stimme voll” zu. Im Osten lag dieser Prozentsatz bei 51. Möglicherweise ist die letzte Gruppe von Teilnehmern besser ausgebildet oder informiert, oder diese Gruppe fühlt sich kollektiv stigmatisiert. Ihre Mitglieder fühlen sich daher weniger bereit zuzugeben, dass sie etwas Neues gehört haben, oder waren einfach nicht offen für solches.

Signifikante Unterschiede fanden wir auch in Bezug auf die Aussage: „Ich glaube, ich habe ein besseres Verständnis dafür entwickelt, wie bestimmte Themen zusammenhängen“ (Frage 5). Im Osten antworteten 9,8% bzw. 56% der Gefragten mit „Stimme voll zu“ und „stimme zu“. In Westdeutschland änderte sich diese Zahl auf 32% „stimme voll zu“ und 48.7% „stimme zu“. 22% der Teilnehmer im Osten und 16,7% im Westen antworteten neutral.

Möchten die Teilnehmer wieder an einem solchen Workshop teilnehmen (Frage 6)? In Westdeutschland stimmte die überwiegende Mehrheit der Befragten (88,4%) “völlig zu” oder “stimmte zu”. Im Osten waren es 61 Prozent. In Ostdeutschland stimmten 17% der Befragten „überhaupt nicht zu“ oder „nicht zu“. In Westdeutschland waren es nur 4%.

Wie bereits erwähnt, wurden negative Antworten in Ostdeutschland überwiegend in Delitzsch gegeben. Wenn wir alle Antworten auf die sechs verschiedenen Fragen zusammenfassen, dann hatte diese Gruppe von Teilnehmern (oder besser: eine Gruppe in dieser Gruppe) im Durchschnitt viermal mehr negative Bewertungen als in Ostdeutschland insgesamt.[8] Nur 1.5% aller Antworten in Delitzsch gehören zur Kategorie “stimme voll und ganz zu”. In ganz Ostdeutschland betrug dieser Prozentsatz 20. Die folgende Tabelle fasst diese Daten zusammen:

 

 

% Stimme

Voll Zu

 Stimme Zu Neutral Stimme nicht zu Stimme überhaupt nicht zu
Delitzsch, Sachsen 1.5 31.8 39.4 12.1 15.2
Ost Deutschland 20 47.2 21.7 6.8 4.3

 

 

Selbst wenn wir Delitzsch aus unserem Datensatz entfernen, stellen wir aber fest, dass die Teilnehmer im Westen mit den Deliberationen etwas zufriedener waren als im Osten. Einige Faktoren könnten dies erklären (die qualitativen Beschreibungen der Workshops, die wir noch veröffentlichen werden, könnten hier mehr Licht geben). Mit noch mehr Daten können wir diesen Trend in Zukunft noch genauer untersuchen.

Erstens könnte es sein, dass Bürger im Westen mehr Erfahrung mit dieser Art von Diskussionen haben. Sie wussten besser, was sie zu erwarten hatten, und freuten sich offensichtlich auch über den Austausch. Eine Frage wie „Was ist eine demokratische Entscheidung?“ war meistens der Anfang einer enthusiastischen und offenen Deliberation, bei der die Menschen gemeinsam nach plausiblen Antworten suchten. Im Osten hatten die Menschen regelmäßig mehr Angst, “falsche” Antworten zu geben, waren sie oft etwas misstrauisch oder schienen eine solche Frage sogar als eine implizite Beleidigung zu erfahren: “Möchten Sie etwa sagen, dass wir (im Osten) das nicht wissen?“ In Sachsen schien dies sicherlich ein unerwünschter Nebengedanke zu sein. Viele Menschen scheinen sich von Vertretern der Wissenschaft, der Presse, der Politik oder des „Westens“ respektlos behandelt zu fühlen. Bestimmte Fragen und Themen können im Osten tiefgreifend andere Emotionen und Antworten auslösen als im Westen.

Zweitens wissen wir bereits aus der bestehenden Literatur (vgl. Blokland 2011, 2015), dass glückliche Menschen mit einem starken Selbstwertgefühl, Menschen, die sich in ihrer Gemeinschaft sicher und respektiert fühlen, bessere Deliberatoren sind, als unglückliche Leute. Sind die Menschen im Westen glücklicher als im Osten? Wahrscheinlich ist das der Fall.[9]  Sicherlich in wohlhabenden, blühenden Orten, wie zum Beispiel in Rheinland-Pfalz (großartiger Wein dazu!), oder in Köln und Hamburg fanden wir viele Menschen, die einfach sehr aufgeschlossen und zufrieden zu sein scheinen. Sie wollten unbedingt eine gute Zeit miteinander haben, und so hatten wir es.

 

Unterschiede zwischen Flüchtlingen und Multiplikatoren

Im Durchschnitt gaben die Flüchtlinge sogar mehr positive Rückmeldungen als die (meistens) deutschen Multiplikatoren. Wenn wir zum Beispiel alle Fragen zusammenfassen, dann fallen 47% der Antworten der Flüchtlinge in die Kategorie “Stimme voll zu “. Für die Multiplikatoren beträgt dieser Prozentsatz 26.7 (siehe nachstehende Diagramme).

Trotzdem hatten die Flüchtlinge oft größere Vorbehalte gegen die Teilnahme an den Workshops als ihre deutschen Kollegen. Möglicherweise hatten sie in ihrem Heimatland negative oder keine Erfahrungen mit offenen Gesprächen über grundlegende ethische und politische Fragen gemacht. Oft hatten sie auch Angst, falsche Antworten zu geben, die sich auf ihren Status in Deutschland auswirken könnten. Aber nachdem sie sich einigermaßen wohl und sicher fühlten, waren sie oft sehr an der Deliberation interessiert. Sie waren neugierig und fühlten sich, war unsere Eindruck, als Bürger ernst genommen, die in der Lage waren, ihre eigenen Gedanken zu den Themen zu entwickeln, die wir zur Diskussion stellten. Wir haben zudem das Gefühl, dass sie regelmäßig auch etwas erleichtert waren, diese Themen endlich diskutieren zu können (vgl. Blokland 2017b). Ihnen war bewusst, dass viele Europäer befürchten, dass sie andere Ideen und Werte haben. Ihre Gastgeber hatten diese vermeintlichen Unterschiede jedoch selten offen angesprochen. Unsere direkte Herangehensweise hat man auch als Zeichen des Respekts geschätzt.

 

Feedback der Flüchtlinge zu den einzelnen Fragen.

61% der Flüchtlinge stimmten der Aussage „die wichtigsten Punkte zu jedem Thema wurden in den Gruppendiskussionen behandelt“ vollständig zu (Frage 1). 39% “stimmten zu”. Bei den Multiplikatoren waren es nicht insgesamt 100, sondern „nur“ 89%.

Die Aussage „Ich fand viele Kommentare anderer Menschen hilfreich für meine eigene Perspektive zu diesen Themen“ (Frage 2) stimmten 85% der Flüchtlinge „zu“ oder „voll zu“. Bei den Multiplikatoren betrug dieser Prozentsatz 89.

Die Aussage “Ich habe festgestellt, dass Menschen mit unterschiedlichen Ansichten oft sehr gute Gründe für ihre Ansichten hatten” (Frage 3) stimmten 25,5% der Flüchtlinge “voll zu” und 53,5% stimmten „zu“. Für die Multiplikatoren betrugen diese Prozentsätze 16,2 bzw. 46,5. Von der letzten Gruppe gaben 32% eine neutrale Antwort. Für die Flüchtlinge betrug dieser Prozentsatz 19,5.

80% der Flüchtlinge stimmten der Aussage “Ich bin der Meinung, dass ich ein besseres Verständnis für einige Themen entwickelt habe” (Frage 4), zu oder voll zu. Bei den Multiplikatoren betrug dieser Prozentsatz 70.

31,7% der Flüchtlinge stimmten “voll zu” und 44% stimmten der Aussage zu, “Ich glaube, ich habe ein besseres Verständnis dafür entwickelt, wie bestimmte Themen zusammenhängen” (Frage 5). Für die Multiplikatoren betrugen diese Prozentsätze 24,4 bzw. 51,3. Nur 2,5% der Flüchtlinge gaben eine negative Antwort (6% der Multiplikatoren).

Die letzte Frage lautete: „Ich würde noch einmal an einem Programm wie diesem teilnehmen.“ 80.5% der Flüchtlinge antworteten mit „stimme voll zu“ und 7,3% mit „stimme zu“. 79% der Multiplikatoren gaben ebenfalls eine positive Antwort. Etwa die Hälfte stimmte „voll zu“. 5% der Flüchtlinge möchten nicht noch einmal teilnehmen, 8.4% waren es bei den Multiplikatoren (hauptsächlich in Sachsen).

 

Abschließende Bemerkungen

Die Leute, die die deliberativen Workshops besucht hatten, hatten überwiegend eine gute oder sogar sehr gute Zeit und äußerten meistens den starken Wunsch, wieder an vergleichbaren Veranstaltungen teilzunehmen. Sie hatten auch das Gefühl, dass sie etwas über die Themen und über die Zusammenhänge dieser Themen gelernt hatten. Ein wichtiges Ziel unserer Workshops war sicherlich die Vertiefung der Einsicht in die Wechselbeziehungen zwischen den Definitionen und Begründungen der von uns besprochenen Schlüsselbegriffe. Im Vergleich zu diesen sehr positiven Erfahrungen waren die Teilnehmer etwas weniger begeistert von den Beiträgen ihrer Mitbürger. Trotzdem waren wir selbst oft beeindruckt von den Fähigkeiten einheimischer und zugezogener Bürger, gemeinsam ein Verständnis für die Probleme zu entwickeln, die wir an den Tisch gebracht hatten. Fähigkeiten werden offensichtlich durch Praxis weiterentwickelt, und aus diesem Grund sollten wir unsere Demokratien neu beleben und stärken, indem wir die Deliberation zu einem konstituierenden Element unserer Gesellschaften machen. Es ist nicht immer leicht, Leute für diese Veranstaltungen zu gewinnen, aber wenn sie einmal teilnehmen, machen sie meist positive Erfahrungen.

 

Literaturverzeichnis

Bächtiger, Andre und Dominik Wyss. 2014. Empirische Deliberationsforschung – ein systematischer Überblick. Zeitschrift für vergleichende Politikwissenschaft. Vol.7. Pp.155-181.

Blokland, Hans T. 2011. Pluralism, Democracy and Political Knowledge: Robert A. Dahl and his Critics on Modern Political Science and Politics, Burlington (VT) and Farnham: Ashgate publishing.

Blokland, Hans T. 2013. Cultuur is geen marktgoed (Culture is no economic commodity). Beleid en Maatschappij, Vol.40, No.4, pp.427-31.

Blokland, Hans T. 2017a. ‘Deliberation against Populism: Reconnecting Radicalizing citizens in Germany and Elsewhere’.

Blokland, Hans T. 2017b. ‘Taking people seriously: a new approach for countering populism and furthering integration’.

Blokland, Hans T. 2018a. Wie deliberiert man fundamentale Werte? Bericht aus Brandenburg über unsere Ansätze, Herangehensweisen und Erfahrungen.

Blokland, Hans T. 2018b. Das Anfechten extremer Wahrheitsansprüche: wie man mit monistischen Denker über die offene pluralistische Gesellschaft deliberiert.

Blokland, Hans. T. 2018c. Radikalisierung Entgegenwirken: Was die Forschung von Deliberation und Radikalisierung uns lehrt.

Blokland, Hans T. und Florentin Münstermann. 2018. Deliberation gegen Populismus: Ein Modellprojekt. 2018. Potsdam.

Fishkin, James. 1995.  The Voice of the People:  Public Opinion and Democracy.  New Haven: Yale University Press.

Rosenberg, Shawn W. 2014. Citizen competence and the psychology of deliberation. In: Elstub, Stephen and Peter Mclaverty (eds). Deliberative Democracy: Issues and Cases. Edinburg University Press, pp. 98-117.

 

Anmerkungen

[1] Im Laufe der Jahre haben mehrere Personen einen wichtigen Beitrag zur Erhebung und Analyse der Daten geleistet. Wir möchten uns besonders bei Tessa Schneider und Alexandra Johansen bedanken. Für Kommentare zu einem Entwurf dieses Artikels danken wir Florentin Münstermann.

[2] Kritiker verlangen regelmäßig viel mehr von Deliberation als von anderen Formen des gesellschaftlichen Lebens. Plötzlich müssen die Teilnehmer ihre neuen Positionen vollständig verstehen und völlig von diese Positionen überzeugt sein, denn ansonsten ist die Deliberation kein echter Erfolg. Aber Leute erfahren deliberativen Workshops auf unterschiedlichen Weise und erlernen sich unterschiedliche Sachen. Einige können tatsächlich vor Allem deshalb eine neue Position einnehmen, weil sie herausgefunden haben, dass diese Position in der jeweiligen Gruppe oder in der Gesellschaft am meisten akzeptiert wird. Sie sind überwiegend Konformisten. Leider haben Menschen viele Mängel. Aber ist es immer noch kein Fortschritt, wenn einige Menschen bestimmte Positionen einhalten, die besser verteidigt werden können, obwohl sie diese Verteidigung selbst nicht vollständig verstehen?

[3] Wir haben beispielsweise vorgeschlagen, ein Jahr lang mit verschiedenen Gruppen zu deliberieren und unter anderem wiederholte Umfragen und Inhaltsanalysen von Aufsätzen durchzuführen, welche von den Teilnehmern über „wesentlich umstrittene Konzepte“ wie Demokratie verfasst wurden. Selbst dann können die Ergebnisse aber hauptsächlich indikativ sein. Um nur ein zusätzliches Problem zu nennen: Wenn eine Forschung länger dauert, steigt die Anzahl der intervenierenden Variablen auf persönlicher, sozialer und politischer Ebene, mit der Folge, dass Kausalitäten immer schwieriger zu erkennen sind. Diesem Problem kann wiederum nur durch eine bedeutende Erhöhung der Teilnehmerzahl begegnet werden.

[4] Die ersten drei Fragen wurden von Fishkin (1996: 223) inspiriert.

[5] Die Teilnehmer des Berliner Workshops waren alle aus Westlichen Gebieten und Städten zugezogen.

[6] Die Anzahl der Rückmeldungen ist geringer als die Anzahl der Teilnehmer, da wir aus zufälligen Gründen (z. B. das Vergessen der Formulare) nicht immer Rückmeldungen gesammelt haben. Wir haben die Teilnehmer auch gebeten, die Formulare erst am Ende des Workshops auszufüllen. Aufgrund anderer Verpflichtungen wie der Kinderbetreuung waren einige Leute regelmäßig schon gegangen, bevor wir die Formulare austeilen konnten. Wir gehen nicht davon aus, dass diese fehlenden Antworten einen strukturellen Einfluss auf die Endergebnisse haben.

[7] Es ist zu berücksichtigen, dass wir eine größere Anzahl von Workshops in Westdeutschland organisiert haben. Zusammen hatten diese Workshops 78 Befragte. In der Region der ehemaligen DDR füllten insgesamt 47 Personen ein Feedbackformular aus (in Jüterbog, Babelsberg, Berlin (Lichtenberg), Neuruppin, Delitzsch und Haldensleben). Die Anwesenheit von 3 extrem negativen Teilnehmern in Delitzsch hatte offensichtlich einen relativ großen Einfluss auf die Durchschnittsergebnisse in den ehemaligen DDR-Staaten.

[8] Wie jeder Lehrer oder Entertainer weiß, kann die Anwesenheit einer einzigen dominanten Person in einer Gruppe von zum Beispiel 15 Personen, die aus persönlichen Gründen oder Motivationen beständig Negativität hervorruft, tiefgreifende Folgen für die Ergebnisse eines jeden Ereignisses haben. Wir werden in den empirischen Beschreibungen der Workshops einige Beispiele dafür geben. Je größer die Anzahl der Workshops und Beobachtungen ist, desto geringer ist selbstverständlich der Einfluss dieser Art von Variablen.

[9] Sehe auch: Deliberation against populism reconnecting radicalizing citizens in east Germany elsewhere; und Blokland & Münstermann. 2018. Deliberation gegen Populismus: Ein Modellprojekt.


The Rewards from Deliberation: Researching the Feedback of our Workshops


by Hans Blokland and Raíssa Silveira

 

Since 2016 Social Science Works has organized and implemented almost forty rows of deliberative workshops with refugees and German natives. Together with the participants, in our workshops we try to develop, mainly by asking questions and feeding discussions, an understanding of the pivotal values of an open, democratic society: what are these values, how can they be defended, how do they hang together, how can they be understood and justified as an interwoven pattern of values and insights on (social) life. We discuss, among others, ethical and political pluralism, monism, democracy, freedom (of expression, association and religion), personal autonomy, tolerance, human rights, identity, discrimination, racism, masculinity, femininity, sex equality, and homosexuality (an overview can be found here).

On our deliberative assumptions and approach we published before, among others, “How to deliberate fundamental values? Notes from Brandenburg on our approach and experiences”, and, for more immoderate circumstances, “Challenging extreme claims for truth: how to deliberate the open, pluralist society with monist thinkers”. We also hope that deliberation can play a role in the prevention of radicalization: “Countering radicalization: what the research on deliberation teaches us”.

Besides 14 series of workshops with refugees from, among others, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroun, Kenya and Eritrea, we organized 22 series of workshops with civil volunteers and professional social workers assisting refugees to integrate in German society. As in the other workshops, we met with on average twelve participants for about fifteen hours in total and discussed the same themes, as well as, how to deliberate these with native and recently arrived citizens in such ways that insight, understanding and consensus are advanced.

Until now, we have organized workshops with German citizens in Brandenburg, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Rheinland-Pfalz, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Hamburg. The workshops with refugees took all place in Brandenburg. In total, we talked in depth with about 250 natives and 200 refugees.

The general aims of Social Science Works are to develop new ways of meaningful citizen participation and to advance new strategies to strengthen civic and political competences. We try to further integration and democratic participation, and to counter populism and radicalization.

To advance this, information and knowledge is needed about how people can be engaged in deliberations that bring forth insight, mutual understanding, and consensus. Therefore, we research the workings of deliberative workshops, the motivations of citizens to participate in civic activities, as well as, the political values of newcomers and natives. We are collecting large amounts of data (via surveys, participative observations, and interviews) that could contribute to our knowledge on deliberation, democratization and integration.

In the coming time, we will publish a row of articles on our empirical observations and analyses. Apart from rather “thick” descriptions of the workshops, these will include statistical analyses of the surveys that many of our participants filled in. In these they were asked about their beliefs and values regarding the topics we usually discuss in our workshops, as well as about their experiences within the workshops.

In this first article, we give an overview of the results of the feedback forms we asked the participants to fill in at the end of the workshops.[1] Before going into this, we present some considerations on deliberation-research.

 

Research on deliberation: some pitfalls.

Regarding deliberative events or workshops there are many questions to ask (but not always easily to answer). Research can be done on: the optimum institutional, cultural and personal conditions needed for deliberation (from party systems and cultures to personality types); on the deliberative process itself (assuming that deliberation has an independent effect, we can research what actually happens when people deliberate and whether we can influence this by organizing or steering the deliberations in different ways); and on the end results (Bächtiger and Wyss 2013). These results could be manifold: the preferences can change, preferably in the direction of the common good; the preferences can become better informed and more coherent; people can get a better understanding of each other’s positions, their tolerance and respect could increase and they could become more willing to reach a working agreement or compromise; and people can get more trust in their own political abilities, in those of others, and in democracy itself.

It goes without saying that the methodological challenges for this kind of research are enormous: the number of variables, the number of their interactions, as well as the problem to “measure” many variables in a meaningful way, make it hard to reach firm conclusions. The most we can find are some plausible indications and tendencies.

What do we like to accomplish with the workshops? And, therefore, what should we “measure”? First of all, we want to show and to experience that it is possible, useful, enlightening and even entertaining to discuss with other citizens fundamental values, ideas and perspectives that too often are not talked about in our societies. It is a general experience in citizenship, deliberation, reflection, civility, social and political participation that hopefully will prepare the ground for many more deliberative exchanges.

Consequently, the aim of our deliberative workshops is not just to communicate fundamental ideas and values, but to create a social setting in which people are able to discuss these ideas and values freely and courteously. We offer an experience and training in the communication of often very sensitive topics, topics that can lead to misunderstandings, frictions, conflicts and radicalizations. The workshops aim to help people, migrants as well as natives, to express and openly discuss in a respectful way ideas, values, orientations, and habits that often stay implicit and therefore develop into unproductive, disruptive conflicts. We try to resolve frictions, before they become unmanageable struggles.

We cannot be certain that all the participants fully understand everything that is put forward during our deliberations. But even when not everything is fully comprehended, the experience that it is possible to talk sensibly on this kind of topics, is essential. The discussions on homosexuality are an extreme example: many people, certainly from non-western cultures, never talk about the topic, it is a taboo. Some participants might have talked about it openly for the very first time. We might not have changed their mind. But we certainly demonstrated that one can have a consistent, coherent discussion on it. The rest hopefully comes later.

Last but not least, what we in the end can achieve and aim for is to seed some doubt, to create some cracks and to open some windows for reflection. Thus, by going into democracy, ethical and political pluralism, freedom, tolerance, or identity we show that there is not much we can be really certain and therefore dogmatic about. Values clash and need to be balanced. Values have different weights in different circumstances. Consequently, balancing values is a continuous endeavor. We want and we need freedom because there are no eternal, universal truths about how to live one’s life. We want and need democracy basically for the same reason: we need a procedure to reach compromises and agreements because people have different, regularly conflicting, ideas, interests and values, and because there are no king-philosophers or other dictators that know all. Identities are, to an important extent, the product of coincidental times and places; they are flexible and changing. Autonomy means that one understands under the influence of which factors one’s identity has been formed.

Consequently, much is fluid, unstable, in the process of change, and all democracy, pluralism, freedom or respect in the ends rest on doubt, on the understanding that there are no final, universal and eternal answers to many of the questions we have to deal with in our (social) life. But this all does not mean that anything goes: on the contrary, there is a constant need to talk things over, again and again, and we can do that in sensible, fruitful ways coming to plausible conclusions.

Now, how to research this? Again, people do not change their mind easily, and even when they did change their mind, they will not readily admit or realize this. Therefore, it is very difficult to find out to what extent people have come to other positions during deliberative workshops. We do not try to answer this by, for instance, bluntly asking participants at the end of our meetings how much they have changed. They do not know, they do not want to tell, and changes might appear much later, silently, working in the background. Maybe, the changes of opinion that can be observed, are only the result of socialization, group-pressure and conformism (cf. Rosenberg 2014), and the people that appear to have changed their mind, do not “really” believe in their new position. But, then, did they “really” believe in their old standpoint?[2]

On top of that: how to research whether people have become more doubtful of their own positions, have gotten a better understanding of the epistemological limitations of their standpoints, and therefore have gotten a better understanding of the foundations of pluralism, democracy, freedom, respect and tolerance? And how to research whether people, despite this understanding, are still firmly able to defend and to believe in pluralistic, democratic, tolerant, open-minded positions? How to measure these substantial-rational qualities in a meaningful way? It is possible to research some tendencies and we have some ideas here.[3] But the research findings will always remain indicative.

The research debate on deliberation slightly resembles the one on the workings of art subsidies. Art too can have many important effects that are hardly to measure: art can constitute a social lab where new forms and thoughts are developed and tested, art can help us to reconcile with the irreconcilable, art can move us with unexpected beauty in a barbaric existence, art can express truths in powerful, evocative ways, truths that can only be inadequately expressed with non-esthetical means. We all know in some sense this is true. When we have been fortunate, we learned this via the experience of many expressions of art. No real need to “prove” this. Still, in an age of “evidence-based policies” too often we fall for the temptation to provide quantitative evidence that art subsidies are a good investment of tax-revenues. Regularly, we then end up with research showing that art subsidies are good for tourism (cf. Blokland 2013).

 

Feedback forms

Despite all the methodological issues, we tried to get some relevant feedback from our participants. As said, the workshops are aimed to demonstrate to the participants that deliberating with fellow citizens about the fundamental issues we put on the agenda could be enlightening, bonding and entertaining. Hopefully, they have the feeling they improved their understanding about particular issues and about how these issues hang together. Hopefully, after fifteen hours of deliberation they have the feeling that it is worthwhile to communicate with fellow citizens about these issues. And hopefully, they would like to participate in this kind of events again.

In our form we asked six indirect questions about the experiences of our participants. Also because most of our participants were extremely polite and supportive people, asking direct questions like “Did you learn something in the workshop?” or “Do you think the moderator did a good job?” often does not bring much, apart from measuring how nice the different groups of participants were. Consequently, we asked them:

  1. The most important points on each topic were dealt with in the group discussions. (1 Completely disagree – 5 Completely agree)
  2. I found many of the comments of other people helpful for my own perspective on these issues. (1 Completely disagree – 5 Completely agree)
  3. I’ve found that people with different views often had very good reasons for their views. (1 Completely disagree – 5 Completely agree)
  4. I believe that I have developed a better understanding of some subjects. (1 Completely disagree – 5 Completely agree)
  5. I believe that I have developed a better understanding of how certain topics are related. (1 Completely disagree – 5 Completely agree)
  6. I would like to participate in a program like this again. (1 Completely disagree – 5 Completely agree)[4]

The participants of the workshops for refugees were also asked three open questions:

  1. Are there certain values, traditions or opinions in Germany that you find very different from you own and make it harder for you to live here?
  2. Have we dealt with topics that were unpleasant for you and which you did not like talking about?
  3. Were there other topics that you would have liked to talk about and which were not discussed?

Not many people answered these open questions. When they did, “homosexuality” was often mentioned (4 times) in response to question 2. This theme regularly caused anxiety (we will report on this separately). In response to the first question several people wrote that racism and xenophobia worried them. And regarding the third question several respondents said they would have liked to discuss German culture and history more than we did. Respondents especially wanted to learn more about how they could get into contact with Germans. The (Dutch) moderator and author of this article did not know either.

 

Results

In 2018, 73 feedbacks were collected after workshops with “multiplicators”, German volunteers and professionals assisting newcomers to integrate in German society. We did this in the West of Germany – Andernach, Germersheim, Osthofen, Köln and Hamburg – and in the East – Berlin (Lichtenberg), Neuruppin, Delitzsch and Haldensleben. In the previous year we had a smaller number of workshops for multiplicators. We received 52 feedbacks from participants in Neuss, Mettmann, Kiel and Berlin (Neuköln) in the West, and from participants in Jüterbog and Babelsberg in the East. Last but not least, in 2017 and 2018 we collected 41 feedbacks from the participants of our workshops for refugees. These took place in Babelsberg, Luckau, Gross Glienicke (2x), Potsdam, Bad Belzig, Eggersdorf, Teltow, Waßmannsdorf, and Fürstenwalde (2x).[5] Consequently, the total number of feedbacks is 166.

 

Feedback of the multiplicators in 2017 and 2018

When we take all the questions together, 74.3% of the in total 750 answers were positive: “agree” (47.6%) or “completely agree” (26.7%). Negative answers represent only 8% of the total (3% “Completely disagree”). Neutral answers represent 18%, but with great variation along each question, as we can see in the following data. The mean answer for all questions together is 3.98/5, which we consider a very encouraging result.

 

  1. The most important points on each topic were dealt with in the group discussions.

The mean answer for this question is 4.3, with 89% of respondents agreeing or completely agreeing that the relevant points were covered by the group discussions. The very small number of very negative answers (1.5%) came, as with the other questions, mainly from participants of a workshop in Delitzsch, Sachsen (we will also provide some qualitative descriptions of the workshops where we will go into the different experiences in this town).

 

  1. I found many of the comments of other people helpful for my own perspective on these issues.

 

The mean answer for this question is 4, with 80% of respondents agreeing at some level that other people’s comments were constructive to their own opinions and views on the issues discussed.

 

  1. I’ve found that people with different views often had very good reasons for their views.

 

As with the previous feedback question, the ability to not only learn from but also to understand the reasons for someone else’s opinions and views is the desirable outcome of deliberation, fundamental to a democratic mindset. The mean answer for this question is 3.66, with 62.7% of respondents agreeing at some level that others had good justifications for their views. When we compare the answers to the second and third question with the other answers, it seems that the participants were somewhat more content with the workshop itself than with the contributions of the other participants. We are pleased that the input of the moderators was apparently appreciated. Ideally, though, in a well-developed pluralist democracy their role would be negligible.

 

  1. I believe that I have developed a better understanding of some subjects.

 

The mean answer for that question is 3.88, with 70% of respondents agreeing or completely agreeing that the discussions were helpful in developing a better understanding on the discussed issues.

 

  1. I believe that I have developed a better understanding of how certain topics are related.

 

The mean answer for this question is 3.94, with 75% of respondents (completely) agreeing that they had developed a better understanding of the interrelations between the topics. This is an encouraging result since we especially try to further the insight how definitions and justifications of (“essentially contested”) concepts like pluralism, democracy, freedom, emancipation and respect hang together.

 

  1. I would like to participate in a program like this again.

The mean answer for this question is 4.1, with 79% of respondents agreeing or completely agreeing that they would like to participate in other deliberations. Obviously, this result is no less encouraging: we hope that the participants experience that discussing fundamental issues with fellow citizens is not just enlightening, but also entertaining.

 

Differences between West and East Germany

Are there any differences between the feedbacks of the participants in the West and the East? In accordance with our experiences during the workshops, we indeed found differences.[6]

Regarding the first question (the most important points on each topic were dealt with in the group discussions), the people in the West were more positive than those in the East: In the West 51.3% “completely agreed”, in the East 34.1%. In the West 95% of the respondents “agreed” or “totally agreed”, in the East 78% of the respondents.

Did people find the comments of other people helpful for their own perspective on the issues we discussed (question 2)? We here observe comparable tendencies: In the East, 17% of participants completely agreed, while that number in the West was 28%. The percentages of the people that “agreed” was in both cases about 56%. More people in the East than in the West neither agreed or disagreed or were plain negative about the contributions of other participants.

The third question, “I’ve found that people with different views often had very good reasons for their views”, received the largest number of negative answers in the feedback. This number was still relatively small, though: About 68% of the respondents in the East and 54% in the West “agreed” or “totally agreed” with the statement. In the East 20% and in the West 36% neither agreed nor disagreed.

What to make of these somewhat different results? Were people in the East tempted to be slightly more positive about the standpoints of others because they feel that standpoints that in the public sphere are particularly associated with the East (the support of populist standpoints is about twice as big in the East as in the West) are stigmatized? We got this impression during the workshops. In the West many people were worried about populist tendencies that they particularly observed in the East and were also less patient with the related views and opinions. This might have played a role in their answers. The question though, was how they valued the reasons for different views that people gave in the workshop.

More than in the East did the Western participants “believe that they had developed a better understanding of some subjects” (question 4). Almost 80% of the participants in the West answered “agree” of “totally agree”. In the East this percentage was 51. It might be that the last group of participants is better educated or informed, or that this group collectively feels stigmatized. Consequently, their members feel less willing to admit that they have heard something new.

Significant differences we also found regarding the statement: “I believe that I have developed a better understanding of how certain topics are related” (question 5). In the East, respectively 9.8% and 56% responded “completely agree” and “agree” to the statement. In West Germany, this number changed to 32% “completely agree” and 48.7% “agree”. 22% of the participants in the East and 16.7% in the West answered undecided.

Would the participants like to participate in a workshop like this again (question 6)? In West Germany the overwhelming majority of the respondents, 88.4%, “completely agreed” or “agreed”. In the East this percentage was 61. In East Germany 17% of the respondents “completely disagreed” or “disagreed”. In West Germany this number was only 4%.

As remarked before, negative replies in East Germany were predominantly given in Delitzsch. When we take all the answers to the six different questions together, then this group of participants (or better: a group in this group) had four times more negative feedbacks than in East Germany on average.[7] 1.5% of all the answers in Delitzsch belong to the category “completely agree”. In the whole of East-Germany this percentage was 20.  The following table summarizes these data:

% Completely agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Completely disagree
Delitzsch, Sachsen 1.5 31.8 39.4 12.1 15.2
East Germany 20 47.2 21.7 6.8 4.3

 

Still, even when we take out Delitzsch from our dataset, we find that the participants in the West were somewhat more pleased with the deliberations than in the East. Several factors might explain this (the qualitative descriptions of the workshops that we will publish, might shed more light on this).

First, it might be that citizens in the West have more experience with this kind of discussions or deliberations. They knew better what to expect and also evidently took more pleasure in the exchanges. Asking a question like “what do you consider a democratic decision” often stirred an enthusiastic and frank deliberation where people tried to find plausible answers by building up together an understanding of all the issues and dilemmas involved. In the East people were regularly more afraid to give “wrong” answers, were frequently a bit suspicious or seem to take a question like this even as an insult: “would you like to suggest that we (in the East) do not know the answer?” Certainly in Sachsen this seemed to be an unwanted association. Many people seem to feel disrespected by representatives of academia, press, politics, or “the West” and posing a simple question as the one above can trigger profoundly different emotions and answers than in the West.

Second, we already know from the existing literature (cf. Blokland 2011, 2015) that happy, flourishing people with a strong identity and a good sense of self-worth, people that also feel safe and respected in their community, are better deliberators than unhappy people. Are people in the West happier than in the East? Probably so.[8] Certainly in wealthy, flourishing and healthy places in Rheinland-Pfalz (great wine too!) or in Köln and Hamburg, we found many people that just seem to be very cheerful and content. They were eager to have a good time together, and so we had.

 

Differences between Refugees and Multiplicators

On average, the refugees gave even more positive feedbacks than the (most of the time) German multiplicators. For example, when we take all the questions together, then 47% of the answers of the refugees falls in the category “completely agree”. For the multiplicators this percentage is 26.7 (see the charts below).

 

 

Nevertheless, the refugees often had bigger reservations towards participating in the workshops, than their German counterparts. Probably, in their home country they had had negative or no experiences with talking openly on fundamental ethical and political issues. Often they were also fearful to give wrong answers that might have consequences for their status in Germany. But after they had settled, they often were very much into it. They were curious and felt, we believe, taken seriously as citizens, able to develop their own thoughts on the issues we proposed to discuss. We also have the feeling that regularly they were relieved that they finally had the opportunity to discuss these themes (cf. Blokland 2017b). They were aware that many Europeans fear that they have profoundly different positions. But their hosts seldom openly addressed these supposed differences. We did this straightforward, also as a sign of respect, and this was much appreciated.

 

Feedback of the refugees on the separate questions.

61% of the refugees “completely agreed” with the statement “The most important points on each topic were dealt with in the group discussions” (question 1). 39% “agreed”. For the multiplicators the total was not 100 but “only” 89%.

85% of the refugees “completely agreed” or “agreed” with the statement “I found many of the comments of other people helpful for my own perspective on these issues” (question 2). For the multiplicators this percentage was 89.

25.5% of the refugees “completely agreed” and 53.5% “agreed” with the statement “I’ve found that people with different views often had very good reasons for their views” (question 3). For the multiplicators these percentages were 16.2 respectively, 46.5. Of the last group 32% gave a neutral answer. For the refugees this percentage was 19.5.

80% of the refugees “completely agreed” or “agreed” with the statement “I believe that I have developed a better understanding of some subjects” (question 5). For the multiplicators this percentage was 70%. 15%, respectively, 23.5% answered neutrally.

31.7% of the refugees “completely agreed” and 44% “agreed” with the statement “I believe that I have developed a better understanding of how certain topics are related” (question 5). For the multiplicators these percentages were 24.4 respectively 51.3. Only 2.5% of the refugees gave a negative answer (6% of the multiplicators).

The last question was “I would like to participate in a program like this again.” 80.5% of the refugees answered “completely agree” and 7.3% “agreed”. 79% of the multiplicators gave a positive answer too, with slightly more people “completely agreeing” than “agreeing”. 5% of the refugees would not like to participate again, 8.4% of the multiplicators (mainly in Sachsen).

 

Concluding remarks

The people that visited the deliberative workshops more than often had a good or even very good time and mostly expressed the strong wish to participate again in comparable events. They also had the feeling, or stated as such, that they had learned something about the topics and about the ways these topics hang together. Deepening the insight about the interrelations between the definitions and justifications of the pivotal concepts we discussed, certainly was an important goal of our workshops. In comparison to these very positive experiences the participants were somewhat less enthusiastic about the contributions of their fellow citizens. Nevertheless, we ourselves were often impressed by the abilities of native and new citizens to build up together an understanding of the issues we brought to the table. Skills are evidently developed by practice and also for this reason we should revitalize and energize our democracies by making deliberation a constitutive element of our societies. It is not always easy to recruit people for these events, but once they participate, they rarely make negative experiences.

 

 

Literature

Bächtiger, Andre und Dominik Wyss. 2014. Empirische Deliberationsforschung – ein systematischer Überblick. Zeitschrift für vergleichende Politikwissenschaft. Vol.7. Pp.155-181.

Blokland, Hans T. 2011. Pluralism, Democracy and Political Knowledge: Robert A. Dahl and his Critics on Modern Political Science and Politics, Burlington (VT) and Farnham: Ashgate publishing.

Blokland, Hans T. 2013. Cultuur is geen marktgoed (Culture is no economic commodity). Beleid en Maatschappij, Vol.40, No.4, pp.427-31.

Blokland, Hans T. 2017a. ‘Deliberation against Populism: Reconnecting Radicalizing citizens in Germany and Elsewhere’.

Blokland, Hans T. 2017b. ‘Taking people seriously: a new approach for countering populism and furthering integration’.

Blokland, Hans T. 2018a. How to deliberate fundamental values? Notes from Brandenburg on our approach.

Blokland, Hans T. 2018b. Challenging extreme claims for truth: how to deliberate the open pluralist society with monist thinkers.

Blokland, Hans. T. 2018c. Countering radicalization: what the research on deliberation teaches us.

Fishkin, James. 1995.  The Voice of the People:  Public Opinion and Democracy.  New Haven: Yale University Press.

Rosenberg, Shawn W. 2014. Citizen competence and the psychology of deliberation. In: Elstub, Stephen and Peter Mclaverty (eds). Deliberative Democracy: Issues and Cases. Edinburg University Press, pp. 98-117.

 

Notes

[1] Over the years several people have importantly contributed to the collection and analysis of the data. We especially would like to thank Tessa Schneider and Alexandra Johansen. For comments on a draft of this article we thank Florentin Münstermann.

[2] Criticaster of deliberation regularly ask much more from deliberation, than they ask from any other form of social life. Suddenly people have to fully understand and to really believe in their new positions, because otherwise the deliberation is not a genuine success. But different people take out different things of a deliberative workshop. Some might indeed only take over a position after they have socially found out that this position is the most accepted in the particular group or in society at large. They are predominantly conformists. Unfortunately, humans have many shortcomings. But is it still not progress when some people conform to particular positions that can be better defended, although they themselves do not fully understand or follow this defense?

[3] We also proposed several institutions to support possible research in this direction. This research, though, takes up much more time and resources than we had available until now. We proposed, for instance, to deliberate with different groups for a year and to conduct, among others, repeated surveys and content-analyses of essays that the participants would be asked to write on essentially contested concepts like democracy. Even then, the results can mainly be indicative. To name just one additional problem here: when a research takes longer, the number of intervening variables on the personal, social and political level increases, with the consequence that causal relationships become progressively hard to detect. This problem can again only be countered by substantially increasing the number of participants.

[4] The first three questions were inspired by Fishkin (1996: 223).

[5] The number of feedbacks is smaller than the number of participants because, for random reasons (like forgetting to bring the forms), we did not always collect feedback. We also asked the participants to fill in the forms only at the very end of the workshop. The group often did not break up, though, but hanged on for some time, continuing the conversations and exchanging contact data. Regularly, because of other obligations like childcare, people had left before we could hand out the forms. We do not expect that this non-response has a structural impact on the end results.

[6] It has to be taken into account that we organized a bigger number of workshops in (former) West Germany. Combined these workshops had 78 respondents. In (former) East Germany a total of 47 people filled in a feedback form (in Jüterbog, Babelsberg, Berlin (Lichtenberg), Neuruppin, Delitzsch and Haldensleben). The presence of 3 extremely negative participants in Delitzsch obviously had a relatively big impact on the average results in the former GDR-states.

[7] As teachers and other entertainers know, the presence of just one dominant person in a group of fifteen that, for any personal reasons or motivations, persistently stirs negativity, can have profound consequences for the outcomes of any event. We will give some examples of this in the empirical descriptions of the workshops. Obviously, the larger the number of workshops and observations, the smaller the influence of this kind of variables and the more chance to observe tendencies.

[8] See also our populism project.


Radikalisierung Entgegenwirken: Was die Forschung von Deliberation und Radikalisierung uns lehrt


Könnte Radikalisierung verhindert oder umgekehrt werden, indem diejenigen, die scheinbar diesen Weg eingeschlagen haben, mit anderen (noch) nicht radikalisierten Bürgern zusammengebracht werden, um grundlegende Themen wie Demokratie, Pluralismus, Freiheit, Autonomie, Respekt und Gleichberechtigung zu diskutieren? Die Forschung zu Deliberation und Radikalisierung lässt vermuten, dass dies tatsächlich das vielversprechendste verfügbare Instrument ist.

 

Deliberation

Deliberation kann als Entscheidungsprozess, als Instrument der politischen Bildung, oder beides verstanden werden (Dahl 1950, 1970, 1989; Fishkin 1995, 2009; Lindblom 1990, Elster 1998; Bohman und Rehg 1997; Gutmann und Thomson 2004; Dryzek 2005; Kahane & Weinstock, 2010; Nabatchi & Gastil 2012; Steiner 2012, Blokland 2011, 2016, 2018; Blokland & Münstermann 2018). Bei diesem Projekt geht es um die zweite Form der Deliberation, die darauf abzielt, staatsbürgerliche oder politische Kompetenzen zu stärken. Wir betrachten Deliberation als eine Kommunikation, in der durch einen offenen und respektvollen Austausch von Ideen und Ansichten, Werte und Präferenzen entdeckt, verstanden, kontextualisiert und entwickelt werden. Bei Deliberation geht es um die gegenseitige Reflexion und Entwicklung von “Willensanstrengungen” in der öffentlichen Sache. Gleichzeitig stärkt Deliberation die Vorstellungen und Emotionen der politischen Gemeinschaft, des Anstands und der Bürgerschaft, die Demokratien brauchen, um zu gedeihen.

In den letzten Jahren hat Social Science Works eine Vielzahl von Workshops mit deutschen Bürgern und Flüchtlingen veranstaltet. In diesen Workshops diskutieren wir grundlegende Prinzipien wie: ethischen und politischen Pluralismus; Demokratie; Bürgergesellschaft; Freiheit (der Meinungsäußerung, der Vereinigung und der Religion); persönliche Autonomie; Toleranz; Menschenrechte; Identität; Diskriminierung und Rassismus; Geschlechtergleichheit; Homosexualität; und andere (eine Übersicht dieser Projekte finden Sie hier: http://socialscienceworks.org/ourprojects/). Wir versuchen gemeinsam mit den Teilnehmern die zentralen Werte einer offenen, demokratischen Gesellschaft zu verstehen: Was sind diese Werte? Wie können sie verteidigt werden? Wie hängen sie zusammen? Wie können sie als Kommentar zum (sozialen) Leben verstanden und begründet werden? (zu unserem deliberativen Ansatz siehe, unter anderem, Blokland 2018a und 2018b).

Die Idee der Deliberation geht auf die Griechen zurück und wurde regelmäßig auf die Tagesordnung der Politikwissenschaftler gesetzt. Zusammen mit Themen wie Bürgerschaft, sozialem Zusammenhalt und Sozialkapital ist es in den letzten zwei Jahrzehnten wieder in den Vordergrund gerückt (vgl. Blokland 2011). War die Diskussion über Deliberation und politische Partizipation in der Vergangenheit überwiegend theoretisch, so wird jetzt, trotz großer methodischer Herausforderungen, mehr und mehr empirische Forschung betrieben. Forschung kann auf die optimalen institutionellen, kulturellen und persönlichen Bedingungen für die Deliberation, über den Deliberationsprozess selbst und über die Endergebnisse abgezielt sein (Bächtiger und Wyss 2013). Diese Ergebnisse könnten vielfältig sein: Die Präferenzen können sich ändern, vorzugsweise in Richtung des Gemeinwohls; die Präferenzen können besser informiert und kohärenter werden; Menschen können die Positionen der anderen besser verstehen und mehr Bereitschaft zeigen, zu einer Arbeitsvereinbarung oder einem Kompromiss zu kommen; und als Nebenwirkungen können Menschen mehr Vertrauen in ihre eigenen politischen Fähigkeiten, in die Mitmenschen und in die Demokratie bekommen.

Wir konzentrieren uns auf die dritte Frage, die Effekte oder Ergebnisse von Deliberation.  In Bezug auf diese Frage basiert die meiste Forschung auf deliberativen Umfragen, die von James Fishkin (1995, 2009) in den neunziger Jahren initiiert wurden. Deliberative Umfragen haben ein vergleichbares Format wie die deliberativen Workshops, die Social Science Works seit 2016 organisiert: Bürger treffen sich mehrere Tage, um ein bestimmtes Thema eingehend zu diskutieren. Sie bekommen Informationen, können mit Experten sprechen und diskutieren das Thema untereinander. Zu Beginn und am Ende werden sie nach ihren Vorlieben und Ideen befragt.

Seit den neunziger Jahren organisierte Fishkin mehr als 70 Projekte in 24 Ländern, darunter Japan, China, die Mongolei, Argentinien, Polen, Großbritannien, Ungarn, Bulgarien, die Vereinigten Staaten, Korea, Ghana und die Europäische Union. Die Themen reichten von: Gesundheitsfürsorge; Urban Governance; Energie- und Umweltpolitik; Arbeitslosigkeit und Schaffung von Arbeitsplätzen; Wahlrecht für Einwanderer; Politik gegenüber den Roma; Rechte und Pflichten der Bürger, oder der Zukunft der Europäischen Union (siehe: http://cdd.stanford.edu/). Die deliberative Methode kann auch in anderen Zusammenhängen angewendet werden: zum Beispiel, Ackerman und Fishkin (2004) schlugen vor, “Deliberationdays” zu organisieren, bei denen die Wähler vor der Abstimmung zunächst die wichtigsten Themen mit Experten, politischen Vertretern und untereinander debattieren. Social Science Works beabsichtigt, diese Art von „Bürger Dialoge“ vor den Wahlen im September 2019 in Brandenburg durchzuführen.

Die Ergebnisse der Deliberations Umfragen sind überwiegend positiv. “Jedes Mal gab es messbare, statistisch signifikante Veränderungen der Ansichten”, beobachtet Fishkin (http://cdd.stanford.edu/what-is-deliberative-polling/; vgl. Grönlund et al. 2010; Ackermann und Fishkin 2015; Fishkin, Luskin, O’Flynn und Russell. 2012; Schaal 2009). Die Teilnehmenden der verschiedenen von uns durchgeführten Workshops signalisieren ähnliche Ergebnisse. Sie fühlen sich vor allem besser informiert und verstanden, und meinen ein besseres Verständnis über die Meinungen der anderen Teilnehmer zu haben.

Bruce Ackermann und Fishkin schreiben im Jahr 2015: „In mehr als zwei Drittel der Fälle finden wir statistisch signifikante Änderungen in den endgültigen Urteilen. Es gibt auch große Gewinne in Erkenntnis und gegenseitigem Verständnis. In jedem Projekt können wir zeigen, dass sich die Teilnehmer auf Substanz konzentrieren und nicht auf Sloganeering.“ Ein Projekt in Nordirland, in dem Protestanten und Katholiken über lokale Schulen deliberierten, zeigte zum Beispiel, dass „selbst in tief gespaltenen Gesellschaften … Massengespräche … hilfreich sein können” (Fishkin, Luskin, O’Flynn und Russell. 2012: 133). Es stellte sich heraus, dass normale Bürger “möglicherweise weniger hartnäckig entgegengesetzte Ansichten haben, als die Eliten, die für sie sprechen. Die Erfahrung, sich mit politischen Fragen auseinanderzusetzen, kann ihnen helfen, dies zu erkennen und ihre Ansichten noch näher zu bringen. Vielleicht ist es noch wichtiger, dass die Menschen gegenseitige Feindseligkeit und Misstrauen reduzieren. Eine Veranstaltung, die all dies demonstriert, kann wiederum einen Kompromiss auf Elite-Niveau fördern – ermutigt Moderate und macht es Hardlinern schwerer, die ‚ethnische Karte zu spielen‘“ (2012: 117).

Bächtiger und Wyss (2013: 178) fassen die Literatur zusammen: Deliberative Umfragen “induzieren in der Regel deutliche Meinungsänderungen, oft in Richtung progressiver und liberaler Positionen …  Der Anteil derjenigen, die ihre Meinung ändern, liegt vielfach über 50 Prozent und radikale Meinungsänderungen können bis zu 20 Prozent betragen. Zudem steigt das Wissensniveau der Teilnehmenden an (gemessen als korrekte Antworten zu Wissensfragen). Daneben finden sich auch eine Reihe von wünschbaren Nebeneffekten: Bürgerdeliberation erhöht das politische Interesse, das politische Vertrauen, sowie die kollektive Handlungsbereitschaft. Schließlich finden sich kaum unerwünschte Gruppendynamiken, wie Konformitätseffekte oder Meinungspolarisierung.“ Die Veränderungen in den Präferenzen und im Wissen sind auch in unterschiedlichen Kulturen vergleichbar. Bächtiger und Wyss schlussfolgern: „Deliberation scheint somit in der Tat eine universelle Dimension, sowie kulturelle Übertragbarkeit zu besitzen“ (2013: 179). Dies alles entspricht den Erfahrungen, die wir (SSW) in den letzten drei Jahren mit deliberativen Workshops für Menschen mit unterschiedlichsten kulturellen und sozialen Hintergründen gemacht haben (Blokland 2018a).

Die Teilnehmer deliberativer Umfragen sind per definitionem eine Stichprobe der Bevölkerung: man möchte wissen, wie die Bürger abgestimmt hätten, wenn sie zuvor eine informative Deliberation hatten. Da nicht jeder Zeit hat, zwei oder drei Tage über Kriminalität oder ein anderes Thema zu deliberieren, spricht die Stichprobe für die gesamte Polis. Abgesehen von professionellen Politikern (die sich im Vergleich zu normalen Bürgern als eher miserable Deliberatoren erwiesen haben), wurden Deliberationen von Untergruppen der Bevölkerung nur selten erforscht.

Social Science Works ist besonders an Deliberation mit jungen Männern und Frauen interessiert, die zu monistischen oder extremistischen Weltanschauungen neigen. Inwieweit eröffnet eine umfassende Auseinandersetzung mit im Kern umstrittenen Konzepten wie Demokratie, Freiheit, Identität, Toleranz und Gleichheit geschlossene, monistische Weltanschauungen, in denen alle Fragen nur eine richtige Antwort haben und alle richtigen Antworten in einem harmonischen, konsistenten System organisiert werden können (vgl. Blokland 2018b)? Diese Frage wurde bisher kaum wissenschaftlich behandelt. Wir halten dies aber für besonders wichtig, da die Literatur zur Radikalisierung und Deradikalisierung zeigt, dass frühe Interventionen durch Deliberation mit gemischten Gruppen junger Menschen eines der vielversprechendsten politischen Instrumente auf diesem Gebiet sein könnten.

 

Radikalisierung und Deradikalisierung

Der jüngste Versuch, das gesamte vorhandene Wissen und Know-how in diesen Bereichen zusammenzubringen, war das Projekt Gesellschaft Extrem: Radikalisierung und Deradikalisierung in Deutschland. Das Projekt wurde durch das Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung unterstützt und koordiniert durch die Hessischen Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung (PRIF/HSFK).

Die Empfehlungen der verschiedenen Arbeitsgruppen stimmen weitgehend mit dem von uns vertretenen Ansatz überein:

  • “Prävention sollte breit und universell ansetzen“ (Srowig et al 2018: 27).
  • „Radikale Kritik ernst nehmen… Substanzielle partizipative Angebote stellen das Bild vom unveränderbaren Status Quo in Frage und ermöglichen Selbstwirksamkeitserfahrungen. Repressionsansätze führen dahingegen zu Eskalationsspiralen und Ko-Radikalisierungen.“ (Meiering et al 2018: 26)
  • “Radikalisierungsverläufe sind stets abhängig von individuellen Biographien. Eine Stärkung persönlicher Resilienz durch die Förderung von Ambiguitätstoleranz und breit angelegte Präventionsmaßnahmen sind das vielversprechendste Mittel in der Deradikalisierungsarbeit“ (Baaken et al 2018: 23).

 

Srowig, Roth, Pisoiu, Seewald and Zick (2018) zeigen in ihrem Endbericht, Radikalisierung von Individuen: ein Überblick über mögliche Erklärungsansätze, dass die meiste Forschungen auf dem Gebiet der (De)Radikalisierung erkunden welche Art von Personen unter welche Umständen radikalisieren. Die Anzahl der Variablen, die die Radikalisierung erklären könnten, ist sehr groß, und verschiedene Forscher messen diesen Variablen unterschiedliche Gewichte zu. Daher kommen sie oft zu unterschiedlichen Schlussfolgerungen.

Die Forschung zeigt jedoch, dass radikalisierende Menschen nicht, um es forsch zu sagen, psychisch krank sind. Es ist offensichtlich tröstlich für Gesellschaften, Extremisten als “verrückt” zu definieren, Srowig et al weisen jedoch auf die “beschränkte Aussagekraft psychischer Erkrankungen als Ursachen für Radikalisierungsprozesse und Gewalttaten” (2018: 2) hin. In Bezug auf Borum (2014) und Koomen & Van der Plicht (2015) stellen sie fest, dass „die Psychologie weder durch theoretische Annahmen noch durch empirische Befunde eine radikalisierte oder terroristische Persönlichkeit definieren kann“ (2018: 3). Daher ist es möglich, mit diesen Menschen rational zu deliberieren. Trotz allem sind sie reflektierende Akteure. Die Menschen in dieser Gruppe haben eine bestimmte “Denkweise”, die sie zu radikalen Positionen führt, aber es ist immer noch möglich, mit diesen Menschen vernünftig zu reden.

Besonders Jugendliche zwischen 15 und 35 Jahren sind offen für radikale politische Ideologien. Srowig und andere bemerken, dass es eine größere Chance gibt, dass sich Menschen radikalisieren, wenn sie sich von anderen Individuen, Gruppen oder ganzen Gesellschaften und Kulturen respektlos, ausgeschlossen oder verraten fühlen oder wenn sie z.B. von persönlichen Rückschlägen wie gescheiterten Beziehungen, Arbeitslosigkeit, gebrochenen Bildungs- oder Berufskarrieren betroffen sind. Dazu können Faktoren kommen, dass sie auch wegen ihres jungen Alters, ein Interpretationsmodell, ein Paradigma, eine Ideologie oder eine Erzählung verfehlen, die ihnen eine Identität bietet, die ihrem Leben Sinn und Richtung gibt und es ihnen ermöglicht, die Situation zu verstehen, in der sie sich befinden. Außerdem können bereits vorhandene Faktoren eine Rolle spielen, dass sie z.B. bereits für radikale Gedanken anfällig sind, weil ihre Persönlichkeit sie anfälliger für das Denken in Schwarz / Weiß-Schemata macht, oder sie Zeichen von narzisstischer Selbstabsorption, Autoritarismus und von “Sensation Seeking Behavior“ vorzeigen.

Radikale Gruppen und Ideologien bieten den betroffenen Menschen die notwendige Gemeinschaft, Respekt, soziale Identität, Richtung und Perspektive auf die Realität. Radikale Milieus und Gruppen stehen in Konkurrenz zu „diversen bürgerlichen und staatlichen Sozialisationsangeboten. Sie bieten nicht nur alternative Deutungsmuster, sondern verbreiten ein stark vereinfachtes Weltbild von Gut und Böse.“ (Srowig, 2018). Deshalb, wenn wir Radikalisierung Vorbeugen, oder den Prozess umkehren wollen, müssen wir bessere Ideen und Erzählungen oder Narrative anbieten als die, die radikale Gruppen und Ideologien anbieten. Und da die Wege zur Radikalisierung extrem vielfältig sind,[i] ist die Anzahl der Variablen im Spiel zu groß, und folglich, da es unmöglich ist, eine Politik zu entwickeln, die sich an Individuen richtet “(sollte) Prävention breit und universell ansetzen” (Srowig et al 2018: 27).

Meiering, Dziri und Foroutan beobachten in ihrem Bericht, Brücken-Narrative – Verbindende Elemente für die Radikalisierung von Gruppen, dass die Radikalisierung von Individuen, insbesondere in Gruppen stattfindet. Gruppen bieten Identität, Gemeinschaft, Narrative, die den Menschen Halt geben. Alle Gruppen haben Erzählungen, die andere ausschließen und andere Gruppen in verschiedenen Graden als Herausforderer, Rivalen oder sogar Feinde definieren. Wenn Gruppen unter Druck gesetzt werden, durch Prozesse der Stigmatisierung bis zur Verdrängung, werden sie geschlossener, unzugänglicher und radikaler. Diese Dynamik kann in allen Gruppen wahrgenommen werden, unabhängig von ihrer Narrative oder Ideologie.

Ideologien und Erzählungen verschiedener radikaler Gruppen haben oft viel gemeinsam. “Brücken” schaffen unerwartete Verbündete. Anti-Imperialismus, Anti-Modernismus, Anti-Universalismus und Antisemitismus werden daher von “Neue(n) Rechte(n), Islamisten und antiimperialistische(n) Linke(n)” geteilt. Antifeminismus wird getragen durch „völkischen Nationalisten, christlichen und islamischen Fundamentalisten und islamistischen Dschihadisten“. Die Idee des „Widerstands“ wird durch alle radikalen Gruppen gestützt: Man glaubt, dass sie sich in einem Widerstandkampf befinden, der den Einsatz von Gewalt legitimiert.

Alle Narrativen, „sind zwar in den jeweiligen Bereichen unterschiedlich zugeschnitten, gehören aber zu den gleichen narrativen Bündeln und erfüllen ähnliche Funktionen. Sie strukturieren Wahrnehmungsmuster, Zugehörigkeitsattributionen und Handlungsoptionen und wirken dadurch als Transmissionsriemen für Radikalisierungsprozesse“ (Meiering, 2018: 10). Folglich kann Gruppendynamik allgemein beobachtet werden, aber es erklärt nicht, was die Menschen zusammengebracht hat, wie sie sich selbst sehen und was sie gemeinsam tun werden. Dazu brauchen sie eine Erzählung, sie brauchen Ideen. Diese Erzählungen sollten wir ansprechen. Und wir sollten uns nicht auf jede Narrative und Gruppe individuell konzentrieren – Radikalisierung durch Stigmatisierung muss verhindert werden, aber am besten gezielt auf “gruppenübergreifenden Brückennarrativen”.

Dies alles passt gut zur Analyse der Deradikalisierungs-Arbeitsgruppe. Baaken et al. Beobachten, dass radikalisierte Menschen sich mehr und mehr auf der Grundlage nur einer Identität definieren und aufhören, ein komplexes, mehrschichtiges Selbstverständnis aufzubauen, dass in einer komplexen, modernen Gesellschaft benötigt wird. Deradikalisierung sollte nicht bedeuten, dass Menschen in eine mittlere Position in der Gesellschaft geführt werden. Radikale Positionen sind weder für Einzelne noch für Gesellschaften an sich ungesund. Das Ziel der Deradikalisierung sollte sein “dem Individuum Fähigkeiten zur Ambiguitätstoleranz zu vermitteln“ (2018: 11).

Nach Baaken et al spielt die wissenschaftliche Literatur kaum eine Rolle in der praktischen Arbeit der Menschen, die aktiv an der Deradikalisierung beteiligt sind.[ii] Da die Prozesse der individuellen Radikalisierung sehr unterschiedlich sind, ist es unmöglich, universelle Generalisationen oder Theorien zu formulieren, die bei der Beobachtung, Beschreibung, Erklärung und Vorhersage von Radikalisierung helfen könnten. Daher besteht die vielversprechendste Politik darin, Menschen und insbesondere Jugendliche im Allgemeinen widerstandsfähig gegen Unsicherheit und Ambiguität, sowie und offen für Vielfalt zu machen. Zu intervenieren, wenn Menschen radikalisiert wurden, ist zu spät. Man sollte verhindern, dass Menschen jemals in diese Phase kommen: “Die erfolgreichste Deradikalisierung ist jene, die nicht stattfinden muss“ (2018: 24).

 

Fazit

Die Forschung zu Deliberation und (De)Radikalisierung wirft einige wichtige Fragen auf: Erzeugt eine Deliberation einer gemischten Gruppe von Jugendlichen, einschließlich einiger Menschen die einen Radikalisierungspfad eingeschlagen haben, über verwante Themen wie Demokratie, Pluralismus, Freiheit, Autonomie, Identität, Diskriminierung, Rassismus, Respekt, Gleichheit, Gleichberechtigung, Männlichkeit, Homosexualität und Menschenrechte, die Wirkungen die die oben zitierten Akademiker und Praktiker sich erhoffen und fordern?

Ermutigt Deliberation Menschen gemeinsam Werte zu durchdenken, die binden,  Sinn und Richtung geben? Entwickeln wir die notwendige alternative Narrative, indem wir all diese Themen als ein verflochtenes Muster von Ideen diskutieren, wobei jeder Teil andere Teile unterstützt und stärkt? Obwohl diese Narrative offen und pluralistisch ist, macht sie Jugendliche dennoch widerstandsfähig für Vielfalt und Ambiguität?

Wenn wir deliberieren, wie Werte kollidieren, wie Werte unter verschiedenen Umständen unterschiedlich gewichtet sind und wie das Abwägen von Werten eine nie endende Herausforderung darstellt, wenn wir gleichzeitig zeigen, dass wir dies auf rationale, vernünftige Weise tun können und dass es immer ein Minimum an geteiltem Intuitionen in Bezug auf Werte gibt auf die wir zurückgreifen können, fördern wir dann die Resilienz für Vielfalt und Ambiguität, die in einer modernen pluralistischen Gesellschaft benötigt werden?

Anders formuliert: Wenn Menschen ein besseres Verständnis von den Rechtfertigungen und Fundamenten von wesentlich umstrittener Begriffe wie „Demokratie“, „Freiheit“ und „Toleranz“ entwickeln, sowie ein Verständnis der Zusammenhänge dieser Werte erarbeiten; wenn Menschen ein Verständnis von der Komplexität ethischer, politischer, gesellschaftlicher und letztendlich erkenntnistheoretische Fragestellungen entwickeln, untergräbt dann dieses Verständnis den sturen Glauben an die finalen Antworten die monistische Weltanschauungen anbieten?

Weitere Forschung ist erwünscht, aber wir sind sehr geneigt, diese Fragen affirmativ zu beantworten. Dies wollen wir auf der Grundlage der vorhandenen Deliberationsforschung und unserer eigenen Erfahrungen bei deliberativen Workshops mit Teilnehmern mit vielen unterschiedlichen sozialen, kulturellen und religiösen Hintergründen erforschen. Wir sehen auch keine Alternative. Es ist nicht möglich, eine allgemeine Theorie zu formulieren, auf der konkrete Maßnahmen, die ausschließlich auf gefährdete Personen abzielen, durchgeführt werden können. Die Anzahl der Variablen und ihre Wechselwirkungen, die Radikalisierung erklären, ist zu groß. Das Beste, was wir tun können, ist die Widerstandsfähigkeit (insbesondere junger Menschen) für extremistische, monistische Gedanken und Gruppen zu stärken.

Deliberation kann hier eine Entscheidende Rolle spielen.

 

Vielen Dank an Jess Haigh und Florentin Münstermann für die Aufbereitung dieses Artikels.

 

Literatur

Ackerman, Bruce and James S. Fishkin. Deliberation Day. Yale University Press, New Haven & London. 2004.

Ackerman, Bruce and James Fishkin. 2015. Britain should deliberate before it votes on Europe. Huffington Post, 17.07.2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/bruce-ackerman/britain-should-deliberate_b_7607312.html?1434576787

Baaken, Till, Reiner Becker, Tore Bjǿrgo, Michael Kiefer, Judy Korn, Thomas Mücke, Maximalian Ruf and Dennis Walkenhorst. 2018. Herausforderung Deradikalisierung: Einsichten aus Wissenschaft und Praxis. Peace Research Institute Frankfurt/Leibniz-Institute Hessische Stiftung Friendens- und Konfliktforschung: PRIF Report 2018/9.

Blokland, Hans T. 2011. Pluralism, Democracy and Political Knowledge: Robert A. Dahl and his Critics on Modern Political Science and Politics, Burlington (VT) and Farnham: Ashgate

Blokland, Hans T. 2018a. How to deliberate fundamental values? Notes from Brandenburg on our approach.  http://bit.ly/2BLsNmm

Blokland, Hans T. 2018b. ‘Challenging extreme claims for truth: how to deliberate the open pluralist society with monist thinkers.’ 2018.   https://bit.ly/2PMcFpm

Bohman, James and William Rehg (eds). 1997. Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics. Cambridge (mass.) and London: the MIT Press.

Borum, Randy 2014: Psychological Vulnerabilities and Propensities for Involvement in Violent Extremism, Behavioral Sciences & the Law 32: 3, 286–305.

Dryzek, John S. 2005. Deliberative Democracy in Divided Societies: Alternatives to Agonism and Analgesia, Political Theory, 33 (2), 218–42.

Elster, John (ed.). 1998. Deliberative Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fishkin, James S. 1995.  The Voice of the People:  Public Opinion and Democracy.  New Haven: Yale University Press.

Fishkin, James S. 2009. When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fishkin, James S., Robert C. Luskin, Ian O’Flynn and David Russell. 2012. Deliberating across Deep Divides. Political Studies. Vol.62, No.1, pp.116-135.

Kärgel, Jana (ed.) “Sie haben keinen Plan B”:  Radikalisierung, Ausreise, Rückkehr – Zwischen Prävention und Intervention. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung.

Kanra, B. 2012. Binary Deliberation: The Role of Social Learning in Divided Societies. Journal of Public Deliberation. Vol. 8, No. 1.

Kiefer, Lisa. 2018. Clearingverfahren: Wie kann Radikalisierungsprävention an Schulen gelingen?  http://www.bpb.de/politik/extremismus/radikalisierungspraevention/267797/clearingverfahren-radikalisierungspraevention-an-schulen

Koomen, Willem and Joop van der Pligt. 2015. The Psychology of Radicalization and Terrorism, Abingdon.

Lindblom, Charles E. 1990. Inquiry and Change: The Troubled Attempt to Understand and Shape Society. New Haven en London: Yale University Press.

Mansbridge, J. (1999). “Everyday Talk in the Deliberative System”. In S. Macedo (Ed.), Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 211-239.

Meiering, David, Aziz Dziri, Naika Foroutan. 2018. Brücken-Narrative – Verbindende Elemente für die Radikalisierung von Gruppen. Frankfurt am Main: Peace Research Institute Frankfurt/Leibniz-Institute Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung: PRIF Report 2018/7.

Niemeyer, S. 2014. Scaling Up Deliberation to Mass Publics: Harnessing Mini-Publics in a Deliberative System. In K. Grönlund, A. Bächtinger and M. Setälä (Eds), Deliberative Mini-Publics: Involving Citizens in the Democratic Process. Essex: ECPR Press.

O’Flynn, I. 2007. Divided Societies and Deliberative Democracy, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 37, No. 4, 731–51.

Steiner, J. 2012. The Foundations of Deliberative Democracy: Empirical Research and Normative Implications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Susskind, L., McKearnan, S. & Thomas-Larmer, J. (Eds.). 1999. The Consensus-Building Handbook. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Srowig, Fabian, Viktoria Roth, Daniela Pisoiu, Katharina Seewald and Andreas Zick. 2018. Radikalisierung von Individuen: ein Überblick über mögliche Erklärungsansätze. Peace Research Institute Frankfurt/Leibniz-Institute Hessische Stiftung Friendens- und Konfliktforschung: PRIF Report 2018/6.

 

Anmerkungen

[i] Typisch ist diese Empfehlung: “Aufgrund der lokalen und regionalen spezifischen Merkmale von individuellen radikalisierungsprozessen kann nicht davon ausgegangen werden, dass sich die im europäischen Ausland entwickelten Methoden und Methodologien eins zu eins in Deutschland adaptieren lassen. Lokale Gegebenheiten, regionale extremistische Milieus, Akteure und Konfliktdiskurse müssen bei der Konzeption von Maßnahmen und Forschungsanträgen berücksichtigt werden.“ (2018: 27)

[ii] „Die Literatur zum Themenfeld Deradikalisierungs (-praxis) .. bleibt insgesamt unzureichend und fragmentarisch. Dem Thema Radikalisierung wird nach wie vor viel Platz in der akademischen Debatte eingeräumt, obwohl die theoretische Aufarbeitung dieses Komplexes bisher nur wenige praxisrelevante Ansatzpunkte für die Deradikalisierung zutage gefördert hat“ (2018: 24). „Universitätsbasierte Forschungseinrichtungen priorisieren oftmals die Ursachenforschung und sind von den Herausforderungen, mit denen sich Fachkräfte im berufsbedingten Umgang mit radikalisierten Menschen konfrontiert sehen, weitgehend entkoppelt“ (2018: 25-6).


Countering Radicalization: What the Research on Deliberation and Radicalization Teaches us


Could radicalization be prevented or reversed by bringing together those that have seemingly entered this path, with other not (yet) radicalized citizens, to discuss fundamental issues like: democracy, pluralism, freedom, autonomy, respect and gender? The research on deliberation and radicalization suggests that this might indeed be the most promising instrument available.

 

Deliberation

Deliberation can be seen as a decision-making procedure, as an instrument of political education and development, or both (Dahl 1950, 1970, 1989; Fishkin 1995, 2009; Lindblom 1990, Elster 1998; Bohman and Rehg 1997; Gutmann and Thomson 2004; Dryzek 2005; Kahane & Weinstock, 2010; Nabatchi & Gastil 2012; Steiner 2012, Blokland 2011, 2016). We address the second form of deliberation, aimed at strengthening political competences and communities. We see deliberation as an open and courteous exchange of ideas and values, which furthers the discovery, understanding, contextualization and development of preferences. Deliberation is not about transferring the undisputed, fixed preferences of individuals into collective decisions and policies; it is about the mutual reflection and development of “volitions” regarding the public cause. Concomitantly, deliberation strengthens the notions and emotions of political community, civility and citizenship that democracies need to thrive.

In the last couple of years Social Science Works has organized large numbers of deliberative workshops with German citizens and refugees. Throughout, we discuss basic principles such as: ethical and political pluralism; democracy; civic society; freedom (of expression, association and religion); personal autonomy; tolerance; human rights; identity; discrimination and racism; gender; sex equality; homosexuality; and others (an overview of these projects can be found here: http://socialscienceworks.org/ourprojects/). Together with the participants, by asking questions and prompting discussions in our deliberative workshops, we try to understand the pivotal values of an open, democratic society: What are these values? How can they be defended? How do they hang together? How can they be understood and justified as a comment on (social) life? (on our deliberative approach see, among others, Blokland 2018a and 2018b).

The idea on deliberation goes back to the Greeks and has been put on the agenda of political scholars and philosophers on a regular basis. Alongside themes like citizenship, social cohesion and social capital it has come to the fore again in the last two decades (see Blokland 2011). Whilst the discussion on deliberation and political participation in the past was mainly theoretical, increasing amounts of empirical research has been conducted. Despite the methodological challenges research can be done on: the optimum institutional, cultural and personal conditions needed for deliberation (from party systems and cultures to personality types); on the deliberative process itself (assuming that deliberation has an independent effect, we can research what actually happens when people deliberate); and on the end results (Bächtiger and Wyss 2013). These results could be manifold: the preferences can change, preferably in the direction of the common good; the preferences can become better informed and more coherent; people can get a better understanding of each other’s positions, and become more willing to reach a working agreement or compromise; and as a side effect people can get more trust in the political abilities of themselves, others and in democracy itself.

We concentrate on the results or effects of deliberation. Most of the research that has been done in this field is looking at Deliberative Polls, initiated in the nineties by James Fishkin (1995, 2009). Deliberative Polls have a somewhat comparable format as the deliberative workshops Social Science Works organizes: for two days citizens gather to discuss a particular topic in depth. They get information, talk to experts, and discuss the topic among themselves. At the beginning and the end they are polled about their opinions and ideas.

Since the nineties Fishkin organized more than 70 deliberative projects in 24 countries, including Japan, China, Mongolia, Argentina, Poland, Britain, Hungary, Bulgaria, United States, Korea, Ghana, and the European Union. Topics ranged from: health care; urban governance; energy and environmental policies; unemployment and job creation; voting rights for immigrants; policies towards the Roma; rights and responsibilities of citizens; to the future of the European Union (see: http://cdd.stanford.edu/). The deliberative method can be applied in other contexts as well: Ackerman and Fishkin (2004) proposed to organize “Deliberation Days” where voters would, before casting a vote, first debate the most important issues with experts, political representatives and each other.

The results of Deliberative Polls are mainly positive. Fishkin observes: “Each time, there were dramatic, statistically significant changes in views” (http://cdd.stanford.edu/what-is-deliberative-polling/). Bruce Ackermann and Fishkin write in 2015: “We find statistically significant changes in bottom-line judgments more than two-thirds of the time. There are also large gains in knowledge and in mutual understanding. In project after project we can show that participants focus on substance not sloganeering.” A project in Northern Ireland involving Protestants and Catholics discussing their local schools showed for instance, that “even in deeply divided societies … mass deliberation … can be helpful” (Fishkin, Luskin, O’Flynn and Russell. 2012: 133). It turned out that ordinary citizens “may actually have less intractably opposing views than the elites who speak for them, and the experience of grappling together with policy issues may both help them to see this and bring their views still closer. It may also, perhaps still more importantly, reduce their levels of mutual hostility and distrust. In turn, an event demonstrating all this may encourage elite-level compromise – emboldening moderates while making it harder for hardliners to ‘play the ethnic card’” (2012: 117).

Bächtiger and Wyss (2013: 178) summarize: Deliberative Polls “induzieren in der Regel deutliche Meinungsänderungen, oft in Richtung progressiver und liberaler Positionen (wie beispielsweise weniger Ausländerdiskriminierung oder mehr Freihandel)…  Der Anteil derjenigen, die ihre Meinung ändern, liegt vielfach über 50 Prozent und radikale Meinungsänderungen können bis zu 20 Prozent betragen (Luskin et al. 2002). Zudem steigt das Wissensniveau der Teilnehmenden an (gemessen als korrekte Antworten zu Wissensfragen). Daneben finden sich auch eine Reihe von wünschbaren Nebeneffekten: Bürgerdeliberation erhöht das politische Interesse, das politische Vertrauen sowie die kollektive Handlungsbereitschaft (siehe Grönlund et al. 2010). Schließlich finden sich kaum unerwünschte Gruppendynamiken, wie Konformitätseffekte oder Meinungspolarisierung (siehe Fishkin und Luskin 2005)“(translation[i]). Perhaps surprisingly, it also seems that the influence of culture is rather low; the changes in preferences and in knowledge are comparable in different cultures. Bächtiger and Wyss conclude: “Deliberation scheint somit in der Tat eine universelle Dimension sowie kulturelle Übertragbarkeit zu besitzen“ (2013: 179) (translation[ii]). This is in accordance with the findings from three years of our deliberative workshops, where the participants came from a huge variety of ethnic, cultural and social backgrounds (Blokland 2018).

The participants of Deliberative Polls are per definition a representative sample of the population: one wants to know how the citizens would have voted when they first had an informative deliberation. Since not everybody has the time to deliberate two or three days on criminality or any other topic, the sample speaks for the entire polis. Apart from professional politicians (that turn out to be rather lousy deliberators in comparison to normal citizens) deliberations of subgroups of the population were rarely researched. At Social Science Works we are especially interested in deliberations with young men and women that are prone to extremist or monistic worldviews. In these worldviews all questions only have one right answer and all the right answers can be organized in one harmonious, consistent system. To what extent can we open these up through an extensive deliberation on essentially contested concepts like democracy, freedom, identity, tolerance and equality (cf. Blokland 2018b)? We consider this issue of prime importance since the literature on radicalization and deradicalization shows that early interventions via deliberations with mixed groups of young people might be one of the most promising policy instruments in this field.

 

Radicalization and Deradicalization

The most recent attempt to bring all the available knowledge and expertise in the fields of radicalization and deradicalization together was the project Gesellschaft Extrem: Radikalisierung und Deradikalisierung in Deutschland. The project was supported by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung and coordinated by the Hessischen Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung (PRIF/HSFK). For historical reasons it is no coincidence that German authorities have a special interest in this topic.

The recommendations of the diverse workgroups are largely in accordance with the approach we defend:

  • “Prävention sollte breit und universell ansetzen“ (Srowig et al 2018: 27).
  • „Radikale Kritik ernst nehmen… Substanzielle partizipative Angebote stellen das Bild vom unveränderbaren Status Quo in Frage und ermöglichen Selbstwirksamkeitserfahrungen. Repressionsansätze führen dahingegen zu Eskalationsspiralen und Ko-Radikalisierungen.“ (Meiering et al 2018: 26)
  • “Radikalisierungsverläufe sind stets abhängig von individuellen Biographien. Eine Stärkung persönlicher Resilienz durch die Förderung von Ambiguitätstoleranz und breit angelegte Präventionsmaßnahmen sind das vielversprechendste Mittel in der Deradikalisierungsarbeit“ (Baaken et al 2018: 23) (translation[iii]).

 

Srowig, Roth, Pisoiu, Seewald and Zick (2018) show in their end report, Radikalisierung von Individuen: ein Überblick über mögliche Erklärungsansätze, that most research in the field of (de)radicalization has been conducted on what kind of individuals radicalize under what kind of circumstances. The number of variables that could explain radicalization appear to be huge, and different researchers attach different weights to these variables. Consequently, they often come to different conclusions.

Nevertheless, the research does show that people that radicalize are not, to state it bluntly, mentally ill. It is obviously comforting for societies to define extremists as ‘mad‘, but Srowig et al point to the “beschränkte Aussagekraft psychischer Erkrankungen als Ursachen für Radikalisierungsprozesse und Gewalttaten“ (2018: 2). Referring to Borum (2014) and Koomen & Van der Plicht (2015) they notice that “die Psychologie weder durch theoretische Annahmen noch durch empirische Befunde eine radikalisierte oder terroristische Persönlichkeit definieren [kann]“ (2018: 3) (translation[iv]). Consequently, it is possible to talk sense to these people. Despite everything, they are reflective actors. They have a particular “mindset” that brings them to radical positions, but it is a sound one.

Young people between 15 and 35 are particularly vulnerable to radical political ideologies. Srowig et al notice that there is a bigger change that people radicalize when: they feel disrespected, excluded or betrayed by other individuals, groups, or entire societies and cultures; when they are hit by personal setbacks like failed relationships, unemployment, broken educational or professional careers; when they fail an interpretation model, an ideology or a narrative that offers them an identity, an identity that gives meaning and direction to their lives and that enables them to understand the situation in which they find themselves; and when they are already vulnerable for radical thoughts because their personalities make them more prone to think in black/white schemes, show signs of narcissistic self-absorption, authoritarianism and/or “Sensation Seeking Behavior”.

Radical groups and ideologies offer the people concerned the needed community, respect, social identity, direction and perspective on reality. Srowig et al write that radical milieus and groups are in a competition with “diversen bürgerlichen und staatlichen Sozialisationsangeboten. Sie bieten nicht nur alternative Deutungsmuster, sondern verbreiten ein stark vereinfachtes Weltbild von Gut und Böse”. Consequently, in order to prevent or reverse radicalization, better ideas or narratives than those offered by radical groups and ideologies are needed.

Besides, roads to radicalization are extremely diverse.[v] There are too many variables at play and as a result it is impossible to develop a policy directed at individuals. Therefore, the conclusion must be that “Prävention breit und universell ansetzen (sollte)” (Srowig et al 2018: 27).

Concomitantly, Meiering, Dziri and Foroutan observe in their report Brücken-Narrative – Verbindende Elemente für die Radikalisierung von Gruppen, that radicalization of individuals particularly takes place in groups. Groups offer identity, community, narratives that give hold to people. All groups have narratives that exclude others and defines other groups in different degrees as challengers, rivals or even enemies. When groups are stigmatized, criminalized or repressed they become more closed, inaccessible and radical. These group dynamics can be observed in all groups, irrespective of their ideology or narrative.

Ideologies and narratives of different radical groups often have a lot in common. “Bridges” create unexpected allies. Thus, anti-imperialism, anti-modernism, anti-universalism and anti-Semitism are shared by “Neue Rechte, Islamisten und antiimperialistische Linke”. Anti-feminism is shared by “völkische Nationalisten, christliche und islamische Fundamentalisten und islamistische Dschihadisten“. And the idea of  ”resistance“ is shared by all radical groups: it is believed that they are in a resistance fight which legitimates the use of violence.

All narratives, Meiering et al write, “sind zwar in den jeweiligen Bereichen unterschiedlich zugeschnitten, gehören aber zu den gleichen narrativen Bündeln und erfüllen ähnliche Funktionen. Sie strukturieren Wahrnehmungsmuster, Zugehörigkeitsattributionen und Handlungsoptionen und wirken dadurch als Transmissionsriemen für Radikalisierungsprozesse“ (2018: 10) (translation[vi]). Consequently, group dynamics can generally be observed, but this dynamic does not explain what brought people together, how they see themselves, and what they are going to do; for this they need a narrative, they need ideas. These narratives should be addressed. However, to avoid stigmatizing (and thus potentially radicalizing) we are not interested in isolated narratives of specific groups, but in “gruppenübergreifenden Brückennarrativen”.

This idea aligns with the analysis of the workgroup concentrating on deradicalization. Baaken, Becker, Bjǿrgo, Kiefer, Korn, Mücke, Ruf and Walkenhorst observe that radicalizing people define themselves more and more on the basis of just one identity (“German”, “Muslim”) and stop building up a differentiated, more layered self-understanding needed in a complex, modern society. Deradicalization should not mean that people are guided to a middle position in society. Radical positions are not intrinsically unhealthy, for either individuals or for societies. Instead, the goal of deradicalization should be ”dem Individuum Fähigkeiten zur Ambiguitätstoleranz zu vermitteln.“ (2018: 11) (translation[vii]).

According to Baaken et al, the academic literature on deradicalization is underdeveloped, incoherent and barely plays a role in the practical work of people actively involved in deradicalization.[viii] Because processes of individual radicalization are very diverse and context-dependent, it is impossible to formulate universal laws or theories that could be of help to observe, describe, explain and predict radicalization. Therefore, the most promising policy is to make people, and youngsters in particular, resilient for diversity, uncertainty, and ambiguity. Intervening when people have been radicalized, is also too late. One should prevent that people ever get in that stage: “Die erfolgreichste Deradikalisierung ist jene, die nicht stattfinden muss“ (2018: 24)[ix]. Educators and youth workers play a central role here (cf. Kiefer 2018).

 

Conclusion

The research on deliberation and (de)radicalization raises several questions: Can a mixed group of youngsters (including some people that seemed to have already entered a path of radicalization) deliberating on related themes (like democracy, pluralism, freedom, autonomy, identity, respect, equality, gender, masculinity, homosexuality, and human rights) bring what scholars and practitioners in the field of radicalization hope for? Does deliberation empower people by showing them respect and enabling them to think through values that bind and give meaning and direction? Do we develop the needed strong alternative narrative by discussing all these themes as an interwoven pattern of mutually supporting ideas? Although this narrative is open-ended and pluralistic, is it sufficient to make youngsters resilient for diversity and ambiguity? In other words: we deliberate how values clash, how values have different weights in different circumstances and how the need to balance values is a never ending challenge. Simultaneously, we show that we can do this in a rational, reasonable way and that there is always a minimum of shared intuitions regarding values on which we can fall back (Blokland 2018b). Does this demanding narrative further sufficiently the resilience for diversity and ambiguity needed in a modern pluralist society?

More research is needed, but we are strongly tempted to answer these questions affirmative. This on the basis of the existing research on deliberation and of our own experiences with deliberative workshops with participants with many different social, cultural and religious backgrounds. We also do not see an alternative. It is not possible to formulate one general theory on which concrete policies exclusively targeting people vulnerable for radicalization can be based and developed; the number of variables and their interactions explaining radicalization is too big. The best we can do, is to strengthen the resilience (of young people in particular) for extremist, monist thoughts and groups. Deliberation can play an important role here.

 

*Many thanks to Jess Haigh for her comments and the editing of this article.

 

Literature

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Ackerman, Bruce and James Fishkin. 2015. Britain should deliberate before it votes on Europe. Huffington Post, 17.07.2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/bruce-ackerman/britain-should-deliberate_b_7607312.html?1434576787

Baaken, Till, Reiner Becker, Tore Bjǿrgo, Michael Kiefer, Judy Korn, Thomas Mücke, Maximalian Ruf and Dennis Walkenhorst. 2018. Herausforderung Deradikalisierung: Einsichten aus Wissenschaft und Praxis. Peace Research Institute Frankfurt/Leibniz-Institute Hessische Stiftung Friendens- und Konfliktforschung: PRIF Report 2018/9.

Blokland, Hans T. 2011. Pluralism, Democracy and Political Knowledge: Robert A. Dahl and his Critics on Modern Political Science and Politics, Burlington (VT) and Farnham: Ashgate

Blokland, Hans T. 2018a. How to deliberate fundamental values? Notes from Brandenburg on our approach.  http://bit.ly/2BLsNmm

Blokland, Hans T. 2018b. ‘Challenging extreme claims for truth: how to deliberate the open pluralist society with monist thinkers.’ 2018.   https://bit.ly/2PMcFpm

Bohman, James and William Rehg (eds). 1997. Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics. Cambridge (mass.) and London: the MIT Press.

Borum, Randy 2014: Psychological Vulnerabilities and Propensities for Involvement in Violent Extremism, Behavioral Sciences & the Law 32: 3, 286–305.

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Elster, John (ed.). 1998. Deliberative Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Notes

[i] Deliberative polls “generally induce significant changes of opinion, often in the direction of progressive and liberal positions (such as less discrimination of foreigners or more free trade) … The proportion of those who change their minds is often over 50 percent and radical changes of opinion can reach up to 20 percent (Luskin et al., 2002). In addition, the level of knowledge of the participants increases (measured as correct answers to knowledge questions). There are also a number of desirable side effects: citizen deliberation increases political interest, political confidence and willingness for collective action (see Grönlund et al., 2010). Finally, there are hardly any undesirable group dynamics, such as conformity effects or opinion polarization (see Fishkin and Luskin 2005). ”

[ii] “Deliberation thus seems to have a universal dimension and cultural transferability.”

[iii] “Prevention should be broad and universal” (Srowig et al 2018: 27).
“Take radical criticism seriously … Substantial participatory offerings call into question the image of the unchangeable status quo and enable self-efficacy experiences. Repression approaches, on the other hand, lead to escalation spirals and co-radicalization. “(Meiering et al 2018: 26)
“Radicalization processes are always dependent on individual biographies. Strengthening personal resilience by promoting ambiguity tolerance and broad-based prevention is the most promising tool in deradicalization work “(Baaken et al 2018: 23).

[iv] It is obviously comforting for societies to define extremists as ‘mad’, but Srowig et al point to the ‘limited significance of mental illnesses as causes of radicalization and violence’ (2018: 2). Referring to Borum (2014) and Koomen & Van der Plicht (2015) they notice that “psychology cannot define a radicalized or terrorist personality-type through either theoretical assumptions or empirical evidence”

[v] Typical is the following recommendation of the authors: “Aufgrund der lokalen und regionalen spezifischen Merkmale von individuellen radikalisierungsprozessen kann nicht davon ausgegangen werden, dass sich die im europäischen Ausland entwickelten Methoden und Methodologien eins zu eins in Deutschland adaptieren lassen. Lokale Gegebenheiten, regionale extremistische Milieus, Akteure und Konfliktdiskurse müssen bei der Konzeption von Maßnahmen und Forschungsanträgen berücksichtigt werden.“ (2018: 27) Translation: “Due to the local and regional specific features of individual radicalization processes, it can not be assumed that the methods and methodologies developed in other European countries can be adapted one to one in Germany. Local conditions, regional extremist milieus, actors and conflict discourses must be taken into account when designing measures and research proposals.”

[vi] All narratives, Meiering et al write, “are tailored differently in the respective fields, but belong to the same narrative bundles and perform similar functions. They structure patterns of perception, affiliation attributions and options for action, thereby acting as transmission belts for radicalization processes “(2018: 10).

[vii] Instead, the goal of deradicalization should be “to teach the individual skills for ambiguity tolerance.” (2018: 11).

[viii] „Die Literatur zum Themenfeld Deradikalisierungs (-praxis) .. bleibt insgesamt unzureichend und fragmentarisch. Dem Thema Radikalisierung wird nach wie vor viel Platz in der akademischen Debatte eingeräumt, obwohl die theoretische Aufarbeitung dieses Komplexes bisher nur wenige praxisrelevante Ansatzpunkte für die Deradikalisierung zutage gefördert hat“ (2018: 24). „Universitätsbasierte Forschungseinrichtungen priorisieren oftmals die Ursachenforschung und sind von den Herausforderungen, mit denen sich Fachkräfte im berufsbedingten Umgang mit radikalisierten Menschen konfrontiert sehen, weitgehend entkoppelt“ (2018: 25-6). Translation: The literature on the topic of deradicalization (-practice) … remains altogether inadequate and fragmentary. The subject of radicalization is still given a lot of space in the academic debate, but the theoretical work so far has revealed only a few practice-relevant starting points for deradicalization “(2018: 24).”University-based research institutions often prioritize root cause research and are largely decoupled from the challenges that practitioners face when dealing with radicalized people ” (2018: 25-6).

[ix] “The most successful deradicalization is the one that does not have to happen.”