In order to learn about the functioning of deliberative devices, we need to invent a political ethnography which is able to measure both internal effects on the participants and external effects on the public sphere. Such an ethnographic investigation, practiced in participatory experiments in the poor public housing estates, helps draw lessons about the effects of deliberation and allows a confrontation between practice and theory. It appears that deliberation in small groups, organized in the working class districts, far from producing consensus and reproducing inequalities in access to a public voice, can generate preliminary politicization and publicizing of social problems, so that it is possible to talk about a "temporary collaborative countervailing power". Nevertheless, the experience proves fragile and raises the question of the continuity of collective action generated by deliberative processes.
Special report: deliberative arenasBy Marion Carrel