Contents Introduction Hilary Wainwright Building a real democracy in the face of corporate and financial power will require a rethinking of power and agency, unleashing the creative, experimental, knowledge-sharing and emancipatory approaches of social...
At the front of a packed auditorium, a young woman is speaking eloquent English in an Argentinian accent. She's telling her audience about 19th-century politics and explaining how the phrase "no taxation without representation" came to be coined. She isn't a university lecturer, and her subject isn't history. Her name is Pia Mancini, a technology revolutionary who is demanding an end to democracy as we know it.
Beth Simone Noveck, and Arnaud Sahuguet (The GovLab) at Governing: “As we explore the role of new technologies in changing how government makes policies and delivers services, one form of technology is emerging that has the potential to foster decision-making that’s not only more effective but also more legitimate: platforms for organizing communication by groups […]
Voluntary organisations across Europe are coming under pressure from governments not to campaign on issues, warns Heidi Sandberg. This article is part of a series on the future of the voluntary sector being published by Civil Society News ahead of the publication of a collection of essays by Civil Exchange.
Despite democratic processes such as elections and parliamentary votes, there is a widespread feeling that our societies are governed by a small group of people among whom economic, media, and political interests are used for their own wealth and benefit. Several more or less consistent lines of analysis have been proposed to find ways to overcome this democratic crisis.
By R.C. Smith (with contribution from Elliot Sperber) (Read the PDF version here) Abstract This paper by R.C. Smith (with contribution from Elliot Sperber) introduces several key themes that will be explored in a forthcoming series of works on a fundamental study on power and violence, particularly in keeping with a radical theory of participatory democracy, grassroots democratic empowerment and the commons. It begins by addressing the incompatible relationship between capitalism and democracy, aiming to provide a fuller attention to why capitalism is inherently opposed to democratic social relations. The paper then shifts its focus to outlining a fundamental reconceptualistion of the modern political-economic system, illustrating the general horizon in which a radical egalitarian, democratic society might be found. To this end, the authors provide a rich interdisciplinary, historical analysis that combines empirical research with critical theory, confronting not only the history and present status of democracy in relation to the system of capital – and other ideologies of domination (broadly defined) – but also lay the groundwork for future discussion regarding a radical concept of democracy and fundamental systemic change. Introduction Democracy is in crisis. Everywhere one turns one is confronted by the contradiction between what Democracy promises (its ideals) and that which it actually delivers. One need look no further than the collapse of the global financial system that occurred in 2008 to see the problems inflicted upon the world by what purports to be Democracy. And because democracy and capitalism remain conflated, and politics and economics are too often mistaken for being distinct spheres, this raises an important issue. How does the global financial crisis reveal the dire state of contemporary democracy? The answer is as simple as it is complex. Democracy today, as a concept and as a thing, has less to do with the actual content of “democracy” as an egalitarian system of political-economic values than it does with the neglect of this content for its (mere) form. More simply put, the concept of democracy in the West is the mere distillate remaining after the actual content (Equality, Egalitarianism, Justice, Rights, etc.) has been boiled away. Today, so-called ‘democratic capitalism’ represents this fetishistic prioritization of democratic form over democratic content. As the global financial crisis has made exceptionally clear, market and economic forces dictate what presumably sovereign and democratic states may do for their citizens and what they may refuse them.As Wolfgang Streeck observes in 2011, while “the same Manhattan-based ratings agencies that were instrumental in bringing about the disaster of the global money industry are now threatening to downgrade the bonds of states that accepted a previously unimaginable level of new debt to rescue that industry and the capitalist economy as a whole”, there is evidence that “politics still contains and distorts markets, but only, it seems, at a level far remote from the daily experience and organizational capacities of normal people”. Intensified by the neoliberal paradigm, the dictates of the ‘the market’ define the essential context in which policy debate proceeds, irrespective of the particular political party elected. In France, for instance, the democratically elected ‘socialist’ government has managed to do little to reconceptualise the political-economy and has failed to uphold its manifesto promises, naively attempting to implement socialist-guided remedies to its ailing political-economy whilst refusing to break from the global capitalist system. In the UK, as in the US, whether you vote Labour or Conservative, Democrat or Republican, the context of policy debate and potential implementation of new policy is likewise entirely defined within, and confined to, the horizon of global capitalism. As a result, it is not difficult to explain from within the social sciences why voter turnout is low throughout the West, why confidence in parliament or congress is sinking, and why citizens increasingly perceive their governments not as their agents, but as those of foreign investors, multinational corporations and the generally wealthy. In this form of democracy – representative democracy – it has become powerfully clear that some (the rich) are represented, and some are excluded entirely. Noam Chomsky assessed this trend and its outcome in relation to the fraudulent status of American democracy in a recent speech delivered at DW Global Media Forum: In the United States, one of the main topics of academic political science is the study of attitudes and policy and their correlation. The study of attitudes is reasonably easy in the United States: heavily-polled society, pretty serious and accurate polls, and policy you can see, and you can compare them. And the results are interesting. In the work that’s essentially the gold standard in the field, it’s concluded that for roughly 70% of the population – the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale – they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They’re effectively disenfranchised. As you move up the wealth/income ladder, you get a little bit more influence on policy. When you get to the top, which is maybe a tenth of one percent, people essentially get what they want, i.e. they determine the policy. So the proper term for that is not democracy; it’s plutocracy. Inquiries of this kind turn out to be dangerous stuff because they can tell people too much about the nature of the society in which they live. So fortunately, Congress has banned funding for them, so we won’t have to worry about them in the future. Empirically speaking, we can see that in European countries like Greece and Ireland and Spain anything beyond the most superficial, ideologically constituted notion of democracy has been effectively suspended. As neoliberal governments propagate a new notion of citizenship, wherein ‘good citizens’ behave responsibly according to international markets and institutions – passively accepting national impositions of strict austerity as a way to remedy the debt and inherent economic corruptions of the capitalist economy – what we observe is not the formulation of social conditions that foster an active, engaged and efficacious subject. Rather, we observe a political-economy that has become increasingly unresponsive to the needs of actual people, as well as the development …
Portugal has announced the world’s first participatory budget on a national scale. The project will let people submit ideas for what the government should spend its money on, and then vote on which ideas are adopted. Although participatory budgeting has become increasingly popular around the world in the past few years, it has so far been confined to cities and regions, and no countr
In line with the steady rise in social unrest over the past decade, it’s likely that we will witness an unprecedented escalation in large-scale citizen protests across the globe in 2016 and beyond. By Rajesh Makwana Research by Dr. David Bailey provides empirical evidence for what many activists and campaigners have long suspected: that we …
Still thinking that the citizens’ initiative and popular referendums are democratic rights restricted to a few countries like Switzerland, the US or Uruguay? Then you should quickly update your thinking as a new tool called the Direct Democracy Navigator currently features no less than 1227 different instruments in more than 100 countries worldwide. Question: What […]
After the Arab Spring, technology became the panacea for democratic development issues. Many programs focus on using technology to engage citizens and to spread information, but how effective are these tools at promoting democracy? Representatives from the National Democratic Institute…Read more ›
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