Abstract

Ecological or ecosystemic reflexivity involves the capacity of social-ecological systems to reconfigure themselves in response to reflection on their performance. In this paper we argue that deliberation is central to reflexive governance, mainly because it can reconcile many if not most of the sometimes contradictory claims that are made in the literature about its drivers. We take four key dimensions along which reflexivity may be sought, each of which features a binary that puts two plausible drivers of reflexivity in tension with one another: (i) sources of knowledge (public participation versus expertise); (ii) composition of public discourse (diversity versus consensus); (iii) institutional architecture (polycentricity versus centralization); (iv) institutional dynamics (flexibility versus stability). In each case, we demonstrate that deliberative ideas can manage the tension between the two plausible drivers of reflexivity.

Keywords: reflexive governance; reflexivity; environmental governance; deliberation; deliberative democracy; polycentric governance

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