First Advisor

Sy Adler

Term of Graduation

Spring 2005

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies




critical theories (dialectical critiques), appraisals (financial records), Valuation, Community development, Critical theory, Democracy, Evaluation, Homeowners' associations, Jürgen Habermas



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, xi, 331 pages)


How do deliberators reason together on what is best? Planners, policy analysts and community developers should know how to recognize the validity of participatory deliberations claimed to give groups voice in policy decisions. Policy analyses have lost power in the face of postmodern critiques of objectivity. Practical policy analyses require more than objective validity for they express results of what Jürgen Habermas refers to as normative rationality. This study followed John Forester's recommended research agenda for rigorous empirical analyses of policy process deliberations using Jürgen Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action. Three successful residential communities were identified with organizational and institutional characteristics meeting Habermas' criteria for organizational support of democratic discourse. Each was organized as a cooperative over twenty years before. All required formal processes for consensus on policy decisions. This research investigated their analytic criteria for process evaluation as they applied them in response to formal open-ended interview questions. Democratic deliberation necessarily elicits subjective and intersubjective assertions of validity in addition to objective assertions of fact and each type of validity is evaluated with different types of criteria. Detailed characteristics of Habermasian validity and discourse ethics are illustrated in discourse analyses of selected issues deliberated in each community. Concepts of Habermasian validity, their development and empirical application are also described. In conclusion, procedural rules for policy deliberation may protect otherwise marginal voices if all four types of validity claims are allowed to be challenged, reformulated, and revalidated. In this way, these communities' social experiments inform similar efforts of those working for greater citizen participation and civic capacity in urban and regional policy and planning. These communities are similarly involved with the design and development of social and institutionalized practices for participatory democracy. This cross-fertilization of theory and practice has the potential to offer a significant benefit to each.


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