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Walter F. Baber

Walter F. Baber is Professor in the Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach. Baber and Bartlett are the coauthors of Deliberative Environmental Politics: Democracy and Ecological Rationality and Global Democracy and Sustainable Jurisprudence: Deliberative Environmental Law, both published by the MIT Press.

Titles by This Author

Deliberative Democracy in Nature's Regime

In this book, Walter Baber and Robert Bartlett explore the practical and conceptual implications of a new approach to international environmental governance. Their proposed approach, juristic democracy, emphasizes the role of the citizen rather than the nation-state as the source of legitimacy in international environmental law; it is rooted in local knowledge and grounded in democratic deliberation and consensus. The aim is to construct a global jurisprudence based on collective will formation. Building on concepts presented in their previous book, the award-winning Global Democracy and Sustainable Jurisprudence, Baber and Bartlett examine in detail the challenges that consensus poses for a system of juristic democracy.

Baber and Bartlett analyze the implications of deliberative consensus for rule-bounded behavior, for the accomplishment of basic governance tasks, and for diversity in a politically divided and culturally plural world. They assess social science findings about the potential of small-group citizen panels to contribute to rationalized consensus, drawing on the extensive research conducted on the use of juries in courts of law. Finally, they analyze the place of juristic democracy in a future “consensually federal” system for earth system governance.

Deliberative Environmental Law

In Global Democracy and Sustainable Jurisprudence, Walter Baber and Robert Bartlett explore the necessary characteristics of a meaningful global jurisprudence, a jurisprudence that would underpin international environmental law. Arguing that theories of political deliberation offer useful insights into the current “democratic deficit” in international law, and using this insight as a way to approach the problem of global environmental protection, they offer both a theoretical foundation and a realistic deliberative mechanism for creating effective transnational common law for the environment. Their argument links elements not typically associated: abstract democratic theory and a practical form of deliberative democracy; the legitimacy-imparting value of deliberative democracy and the possibility of legislating through adjudication; common law jurisprudence and the development of transnational environmental law; and conceptual thinking that draws on Deweyan pragmatism, Rawlsian contractarianism, Habermasian critical theory, and the full liberalism of Bohman, Gutmann, and Thompson. Baber and Bartlett offer a democratic method for creating, interpreting, and implementing international environmental norms that involves citizens and bypasses states--an innovation that can be replicated and deployed across a range of policy areas. Transnational environmental consensus would develop through a novel model of juristic democracy that would generate legitimate international environmental law based on processes of hypothetical rule making by citizen juries. This method would translate global environmental norms into international law--law that, unlike all current international law, would be recognized as both fact and norm because of its inherent democratic legitimacy.

Democracy and Ecological Rationality

In Deliberative Environmental Politics, Walter Baber and Robert Bartlett link political theory with the practice of environmental politics, arguing that the "deliberative turn" in democratic theory presents an opportunity to move beyond the policy stalemates of interest group liberalism and offers a foundation for reconciling rationality, strong democracy, and demanding environmentalism. Deliberative democracy, which presumes that the essence of democracy is deliberation—thoughtful and discursive public participation in decision making—rather than voting, interest aggregation, or rights, has the potential to produce more environmentally sound policy decisions and a more ecologically rational form of environmental governance.

Baber and Bartlett defend deliberative democracy's relevance to environmental politics in the twenty-first century against criticisms from other theorists. They critically examine three major models for deliberative democracy—those of John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas, and advocates of full liberalism such as Amy Gutman, Dennis Thompson, and James Bohman—and analyze the implications of each of these approaches for ecologically rational environmental politics as well as for institutions, citizens, experts, and social movements. In order to establish that democracy is ecologically sustainable and that environmental protection can (and must) become a norm of culture rather than a mere fact of government, they argue, new models of ecological deliberation and deliberative environmentalism are required.