Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Tobin, Theresa W.

Second Advisor

Gibson, Kevin

Third Advisor

Wolfendale, Jessica


This dissertation puts American philosophers and social reformers, Jane Addams (1860-1935) and John Dewey (1859-1952), in conversation with contemporary social and political philosopher, Iris Marion Young (1949-2006), to argue that an account of deliberative equality must make conceptual space to name the problem of ‘communicatively structured deliberative inequality’. I argue that in order for participatory democracy theory to imagine and construct genuinely inclusive deliberative spaces, it must be grounded in a relational ontology and pragmatist feminist social epistemology. The literature has largely developed deliberative inequality in terms of access (e.g., participation costs) and ‘impoverished capacities’ for political participation (e.g., political-process illiteracy; public debate skills). This literature has failed to appreciate the communicative dimensions of deliberative inequality. Individuals who occupy historically stigmatized social groups may participate at a communicatively structured disadvantage in participatory forums not because of their own impoverished capacities, but because of the identity-prejudiced stereotypes of their interlocutors. Chapter 1 situates Young’s communicative democracy in contemporary deliberative democracy literature and shows the inadequacies of liberal individualism, assumed by much of traditional deliberative theory, for naming and addressing the problem of communicatively structured deliberative inequality. Chapter 2 draws on literature in feminist and resistance epistemologies as well as the social identity approach within contemporary social psychology theory to flesh out the problem of communicatively structured deliberative inequality. Here, I provide a relational ontology of prejudice and examine it’s impact on one’s epistemic and deliberative standing. Chapter 3 draws on the work of Addams and Dewey to develop a relational ontology of political agency as well as the pragmatist feminist epistemology of communicative democracy. Addams and Dewey, like Young, saw exclusion as a serious social and political problem, and they looked to democratic norms and practices as a resource for social justice. Thus, Chapter 4 looks to Addams and Dewey’s writings and Addams’s leadership at Hull House as a resource for communicative democracy, and more particularly, for addressing deliberative inequality and imagining and constructing inclusive deliberative spaces in light of the problem of communicatively structured deliberative inequality.

Included in

Philosophy Commons