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Reconstructing Democracy: Current Thinking and New Directions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2014

Michael Saward
Affiliation:
The Open University

Extract

Today's Democratic Theory Offers Sketches Of Tomorrow's democratic polity. How innovative, and how compelling, are the visions it offers us? This article explores possible democratic futures by scanning a selection of today's key democratic innovations – cosmopolitan, deliberative, ‘politics of presence’, ecological, associative and party-based direct models – in the light of a set of six central issues useful for examining the core aspects of democratic theories. It concludes by suggesting a way forward in which insights from diverse innovations might helpfully be accommodated within an overarching framework. Overall, it represents a deliberate attempt at a bird's eye view of the subject; the aim is to be suggestive rather than definitive. The scope of the analysis is broad but quite strictly qualified in the following ways: the six innovative ideas scrutinized arise from, and largely address, countries of the rich North rather than the developing South; they do not exhaust the range of current innovations in democratic theory; and they are based largely on English-language sources.

Type
Original Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Government and Opposition Ltd 2001

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References

1 Held, D. Democracy and the Global Order, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1995;Google Scholar Held, D.The Transformation of Political Community’, in Shapiro, I.and Hacker-Cordon, C.(eds), Democracy’s Edges, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.Google Scholar

2 Ibid., p. 230.

3 Kymlicka, W.Citizenship in an Era of Globalization: Commentary on Held’, in Shapiro, I.and Hacker-Cordon, C.(eds), Democracy’s Edges, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999;Google Scholar A. Wendt, ‘A Comment on Held’s Cosmopolitanism’, in I. Shapiro and C. Hacker-Cordon (eds), Democracy’s Edges.

4 R. A. Dahl, ‘Can International Organizations be Democratic? A Skeptic’s View’, in I. Shapiro and C. Hacker-Cordon (eds), Democracy’s Edges, p. 19.

5 D. Held, Democracy and Global Order, p. 201.

6 Dryzek, J. S. Deliberative Democracy and Beyond, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000.Google Scholar

7 Thompson, D.Democratic Theory and Global Society’, Journal of Political Philosophy, 7 (1999).CrossRefGoogle Scholar Held does advocate the use of deliberative forums as part of his model; we are dealing here with matters of emphasis.

8 Dahl, R. A.Can International Organizations be Democratic?’; Hirst, P. ‘Democracy and Governance’, in Pierre, J.(ed.), Debating Governance, Oxford University Press, 2000.Google Scholar

9 Between them, the following key texts discuss these major points of division: Benhabib, S.Toward a Deliberative Model of Democratic Legitimacy’, in Benhabib, S.(ed.), Democracy and Difference, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1996;Google Scholar Cohen, J.Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy’, in Hamlin, A.and Pettit, P.(eds), The Good Polity, Oxford, Blackwell, 1989;Google Scholar J. Fishkin, Democracy and Deliberation, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 1991; Gutmann, A.and Thompson, D. Democracy and Disagreement, Cambridge, Mass. and London, Belknap Press, 1996;Google Scholar Rawls, J. Political Liberalism, New York, Columbia University Press, 1993.Google Scholar

10 Bohman, J.The Coming of Age of Deliberative Democracy’, Journal of Political Philosophy, 6, p. 401.Google Scholar

11 This view is defended most prominently in Macedo, A. Gutmann and Thompson, D, ‘Democratic Disagreement’, in S. (ed.), Deliberative Politics, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 276–7Google Scholar especially.

12 Young, I. M. Inclusion and Democracy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 5280 Google Scholar especially.

13 Budge, I.Deliberative Democracy Versus Direct Democracy — Plus Political Parties!’, in Saward, M.(ed.), Democratic Innovation, London, Routledge, 2000.Google Scholar

14 Habermas, J. Between Facts and Norms, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1996.Google Scholar

15 J. S. Fishkin and R. C. Luskin, ‘The Quest for ‘Deliberative Democracy’, in M. Saward (ed.), Democratic Innovation, London, Routledge, 2000; G. Smith, ‘Toward Deliberative Institutions’, in M. Saward (ed.), Democratic Innovation.

16 Phillips, A. The Politics of Presence, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995.Google Scholar

17 Ibid., p. 10.

18 Ibid., p. 82.

19 Young, I. M.Communication and the Other: Beyond Deliberative Democracy’, in Benhabib, S.(ed.), Democracy and Difference, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1996.Google Scholar

20 I. M. Young, Inclusion and Democracy, p. 148.

21 Ibid., pp. 148–53; see also discussion in J. Squires, ‘Group Representation, Deliberation, and the Displacement of Dichotomies’, in M. Saward (ed.), Democratic Innovation.

22 See for example: M. Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom, Palo Alto, Cheshire Books, 1982; A. Carter, ‘Towards a Green Political Theory’, in A. Dobson and P. Lucardie (eds), The Politics of Nature, London, Routledge, 1993; J. Porritt, Seeing Green, Oxford, Blackwell, 1984; K. Sale, Dwellers in the Land, San Francisco, Sierra Club, 1985.

23 Goodin, R. E. Green Political Theory, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1992, p. 168.Google Scholar

24 J. S. Dryzek, Deliberative Democracy and Beyond.

25 Eckersley, R.Greening Liberal Democracy’, in Doherty, B.and Geus, M. de(eds), Democracy and Green Political Thought, London, Routledge, 1996.Google Scholar

26 A. Dobson, ‘Representative Democracy and the Environment’, in W. Lafferty and J. Meadowcroft (eds), Democracy and the Environment, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 1996.

27 R. Eckersley, ‘Deliberative Democracy, Ecological Representation and Risk: Towards a Democracy of the Affected’, in M. Saward (ed.), Democratic Innovation.

28 Cohen, J. and Rogers, J.Secondary Associations and Democratic Governance’, Politics and Society, 20 (1992), pp. 393472;CrossRefGoogle Scholar Hirst, P. Associative Democracy, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1994;Google Scholar Hirst, P. From Statism to Pluralism, London, UCL Press, 1997.Google Scholar

29 P. Hirst, Associative Democracy, pp. 189; 22.

30 The associational vision of Cohen and Rogers ref lects the structure and concerns of Hirst’s in many ways, but is oriented more towards top-down state fostering of appropriate associations for making public decisions and delivering public services, whereas Hirst’s vision involves considerably more genuine decentralization and localism.

31 Hirst writes that: ‘Majority decisions matter but they have a subsiding part to play in the process of governance. Elections and referenda are relatively infrequent and only decide certain salient issues, whereas governance is a continuous process and all of its decisions cannot be subject to majority approval’. P. Hirst, ‘Democracy and Governance’, in Pierre, J.(ed.), Debating Governance, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 27.Google Scholar

32 Budge, I. The New Challenge of Direct Democracy, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1996.Google Scholar

33 This view is elaborated in Saward, M. The Terms of Democracy, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1998,Google Scholar part 2 especially.

34 See the critiques of deliberative democracy along these lines offered by M. Saward, ‘Less Than Meets the Eye: Democratic Legitimacy and Deliberative Theory’, and I. Budge, ‘Deliberative Democracy Versus Direct Democracy — Plus Political Parties!’, in M. Saward (ed.), Democratic Innovation.

35 Or more precisely, they enact one of a number of reasonable interpretations of a principle or principles. Neither devices nor principles can be given a single, correct, properly ‘democratic’ meaning; their lack of fixed meaning is intrinsic to them. What fixed meaning they have, in given times and places, comes from their relationship to each other as it develops in theoretical and public debate, and not to some reference point or arbiter external to that relationship in that context.

36 Here I draw loosely on Judith Butler’s approach to ‘gender’. Butler writes that ‘… the substantive effect of gender is performatively produced … gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who might be said to pre-exist the deed … There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very “expressions” that are said to be its results’. See Butler, J. Gender Trouble, New York and London, Routledge, 1990, pp. 24–5.Google Scholar

37 The approach is distinctively proceduralist in that it is focused on the shaping of political procedures, and it accepts outcomes as legitimate if they have been produced by a certain procedure. It is reflexive in that it conceives of democratic principles and devices adjusting meanings and functions according to information about their own practice, and changing shape according to their terrain (country, culture).

38 See Saward, The Terms of Democracy, part II especially, for an extended defence of this view.

39 See M. Saward, ‘Direct and Deliberative Democracy’, paper delivered at the conference ‘Deliberating about Deliberative Democracy’, University of Texas at Austin, February 2000.

40 An excellent account of these and related issues of institutional design can be found in Goodin, R. E.Institutions and Their Design’, in Goodin (ed.), The Theory of Institutional Design, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

41 Bauman, Z. Intimations of Postmodernity, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1992, p. 126.Google Scholar

42 This is the case for example in Gutmann and Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement.

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