Democratic norms of freedom can be made explicit in various rights,including civil rights of participation and free expression. Such normsare often violated explicitly in exercises of power for various ends,such as wealth, security, or cultural survival. Besides these explicitrights, such coercion also violates the communicative freedom expressedin ignoring the need to pass decisions through the taking of yes/noattitudes by participants in communication. Habermas calls such speechthat is not dependent on these conditions of communicative rationality“distorted communication.” For example, powerful economic groupshave historically been able to attain their agency goals withoutexplicitly excluding topics from democratic discussion but by impliedthreats and other nondeliberative means (Przworski and Wallerstein1988, 12–29; Bohman 1997, 338–339). Threats of declining investmentsblock redistributive schemes, so that credible threats circumvent theneed to convince others of the reasons for such policies or to put someissue under democratic control. Similarly, biases in agenda settingwithin organizations and institutions limit scope of deliberation andrestrict political communication by defining those topics that can besuccessfully become the subject of public agreement (Bohman 1990). Inthis way, it is easy to see how such a reconstructive approach connectsdirectly to social scientific analyses of the consistency of democraticnorms with actual political behavior.


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