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Social Sci LibreTexts

15.4B: Participatory Democracy

  • Page ID
    8442
  • Participatory democracy emphasized the broad participation of constituents in the direction and operation of political systems.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    List the key qualities of participatory democracy and some of its historical manifestations

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • Participatory democracy tends to advocate more involved forms of citizen participation than traditional representative democracy.
    • Participatory democracy strives to create opportunities for all members of a population to make meaningful contributions to decision making, and seeks to broaden the range of people who have access to such opportunities.
    • In 8th and 7th century Ancient Greece, the informal distributed power structure of the villages and minor towns began to be displaced with collectives of Oligarchs seizing power as the villages and towns coalesced into city states.
    • Deliberative democracy differs from traditional democratic theory in that authentic deliberation, not mere voting, is the primary source of a law’s legitimacy.
    • Demarchy is a hypothetical system where government is heavily decentralized into smaller independent groups and where randomly selected decision makers have been chosen to govern, and each group is responsible for one or several functions in society.
    • Deliberative democracy differs from traditional democratic theory in that authentic deliberation, not mere voting, is the primary source of a law’s legitimacy.
    • Demarchy is a hypothetical system where government is heavily decentralized into smaller independent groups. Each group is responsible for one or several functions in society.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • Demarchy: Demarchy (or lottocracy) is a form of government in which the state is governed by randomly selected decision makers who have been selected by sortition (lot) from a broadly inclusive pool of eligible citizens.
    • Occupy movement: The Occupy movement is an international protest movement against social and economic inequality; its primary goal is to to make economic structure and power relations in society more fair.
    • deliberative democracy: Deliberative democracy or discursive democracy is a form of democracy in which deliberation is central to decision making. Deliberative democracy differs from traditional democratic theory in that authentic deliberation, not mere voting, is the primary source of legitimacy for the lawmaking processes.

    Participatory democracy is a process emphasizing the broad participation of constituents in the direction and operation of political systems. The etymological roots of democracy (Greek demos andkratos) imply that the people are in power and, thus, that all democracies are participatory. However, participatory democracy tends to advocate more involved forms of citizen participation than traditional representative democracy. Participatory democracy strives to create opportunities for all members of a population to make meaningful contributions to decision making and seeks to broaden the range of people who have access to such opportunities.

    Participatory democracy has been a feature of human society since at least classical times. It is believed to have been a common practice of undeveloped people and hunter-gatherer tribes. In seventh and eighth century ancient Greece, the informal distributed power structure of the villages and minor towns began to be displaced with collectives of oligarchs seizing power as the villages and towns coalesced into city-states. A brief period where a region was governed almost totally by participatory democracy occurred during the Spanish civil war, from 1936-1938, in the parts of Spain controlled by anarchist Republicans. In the 1960s, the promotion and use of participatory democracy was a major theme for elements of the American Left. In 2011, participatory democracy became a notable feature of the Occupy movement, with Occupy camps around the world making decisions based on the outcome of working groups where every protestor gets to have his say, and by general assemblies where the decisions taken by working groups are effectively aggregated together.

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    Occupy Wall Street, Washington Square Park 2011: The Occupy Wall Street General Assembly meets in Washington Square Park for the first time on Saturday, October 8.

    Political variants of participatory democracy include consensus democracy, deliberative democracy, demarchy, and grassroots democracy. Deliberative democracy differs from traditional democratic theory in that authentic deliberation, not mere voting, is the primary source of a law’s legitimacy. It adopts elements of both consensus decision making and majority rule. When practiced by small groups, it is possible for decision making to be both fully participatory and deliberative. But for large political entities, the democratic reform dilemma makes it difficult for any system of decision making based on political equality to involve both deliberation and inclusive participation. Demarchy is a hypothetical system where government is heavily decentralized into smaller independent groups and where randomly selected decision makers have been chosen to govern, and each group is responsible for one or several functions in society. The system seeks to avoid problems with centralized and electoral governance, while still providing a stable democratic system.

    Some scholars argue for refocusing the term on community-based activity within the domain of civil society, based on the belief that a strong non-governmental public sphere is a precondition for the emergence of a strong liberal democracy.