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Understanding lobbying as a deliberative process: Contrasting theoretical approaches to interest group advocacy at the EU-level

Helena Seibicke

The focus of this paper is to advance the argument that interest group advocacy is an inherently communicative process. Interest group advocates have a factual base for their message but do not depend on facts alone. The facts are accompanied by a set of arguments concerning the rightness, wisdom and justice of each proposed action. This paper argues that analysing interest group advocacy from a communicative perspective can illuminate vital parts of the lobbying process. Determining the influence of certain groups should take into account that communicative interaction can and does exert a causal influence on policy change. Civil society actors are being included into discursive and deliberative practices within the EU’s institutional framework. The strength of their ideas and arguments gives them the deliberative power to make their claims vis-à-vis the EU’s political institutions. Therefore, this paper investigates how we can understand advocacy as a deliberative process, since the prevalent perspective in advocacy analysis is the resource-focused exchange approach. I contrast rational-choice and deliberative theory and propose to conceptualise advocacy as a process in which interest groups on both sides of the policy issue collect facts and present their most persuasive arguments. In doing so, this paper advances a theoretical explanation for how we can understand interest group advocacy as a deliberative process.

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