Due to the current political challenges facing democratic societies, including an apparent presence of populist rhetoric, the question of how political discussions should take place in democratic education is as urgent as ever. In the last two decades, one of the most prominent approaches to this question has been the use of deliberative theory. However, the deliberative approach has been criticized from an agonistic perspective for neglecting the role of emotions in political discussions. Deliberative theorists have in turn responded to this critique and argued that the agonistic approach tends to put too much emphasis on students’ emotions and identities in political discussions. Recently, as a contribution to this debate, the idea of assimilating agonism with deliberation has been suggested as a way of overcoming the differences between agonism and deliberative theory.

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the educational debate between agonism and deliberative theory by exploring the deliberative critique from the vantage point of agonism. I claim that the deliberative critique of agonism is unfounded and based on a misreading of Mouffe’s agonistic theory. Furthermore, I argue that the attempt to assimilate agonism with deliberation is not compatible with Mouffe’s agonistic theory.