David Dutwin

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Vince Price


Recently, political deliberation has undergone intensive theoretical scrutiny. While the amount of scholarship on deliberation has been on the rise, it has been limited to a rational / instrumental paradigm focused on the importance of political knowledge and deliberation as an instrument for producing informed public opinion. This dissertation offers an alternative paradigm, called the communal / conversational framework of deliberation, that instead underscores the importance of the enactment of civic identity and the centrality of political conversation before, during and after deliberation occurs. Through the exploration and analysis of four integral research questions—who participates, what do they say, how do they say it, and with what effect—these two frameworks will be compared and contrasted. The normative theoretical principles widely assumed by scholars of deliberative democracy are tested, using bivariate and multivariate analyses, content analysis, and close textual analysis from data generated from a recent project in deliberative democracy. The results provide broad support for the communal/conversational framework of deliberation. While it shares importance with the rational/instrumental framework of deliberation with regard to who participates and with what effect, the communal/conversational framework eclipses the rational/instrumental framework in affording an understanding and predicting what deliberators say and how they say it. It is political conversation, rather than political knowledge, that determines whether someone can in fact be sophisticated in how they talk about politics.