Dossier Politics

Democracy: Bridging the Representation Gap

by Émilie Frenkiel , 28 December 2011

The current world-wide demand for “real” democracy as embodied in the Indignados (15-M) movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement reiterates long-lasting frustrations as regards representative government and the incompleteness of democratic experiences throughout the world. This dossier gathers interviews and essays by renowned scholars on the conception of democracy as an on-going experience and not as a finished model.

Democracy: from a Model to an Experience

Pierre Rosanvallon and Florent Guénard remind us that our pretention as Westerners to own a universal democratic model plummets when we try to export it. They offer to consider democracy as an experience, and not as a smoothed out model, and examine Europe and the United States’ eventful history in “Democratic Universalism as a Historical Problem” and “Promoting Democracy: a Theoretical Impasse?”.

Democracy Threatened by Aristocratic and Populist Pulls

An interview with Bernard Manin and Nadia Urbinati “Is Representative Democracy Really Democratic?” delves into the question of the aristocratic elements of representative government. As a counterbalance to the simplistic temptations of the populism that is currently spreading within European democracies, in “A Reflection on Populism”, Pierre Rosanvallon invites us to complicate our notion of democracy and make it polyphonic, because the people do not all speak with one voice.

Rethinking Representation and Bettering Democratic Experiences

Representative democracy has to evolve to meet the challenge of environment destruction and take into account future generations. In “For an Ecological Democracy”, Dominique Bourg and Kerry Whiteside suggest that future democracy, contrary to one of the former goals of representation as a means to make people free to consume, will have to watch over the power technologies and people to affect the physical conditions of well-being as well as the very meaning of the human adventure itself. To improve democracy, participative and deliberative and other kinds of practices have to be seriously introduced (“Are we Represented? an Interview with Loïc Blondiaux). Besides, processes like lottery, associated with democracy in Antiquity, as Paul Demont presents in”Allotment and Democracy in Ancient Greece“, are now introduced, as was the case in Iceland (Yves Sintomer,”“[forthcoming]). Patrice Flichy explains why the Internet can also have a role to play (”Is the Internet an Instrument of Democracy?").

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by Émilie Frenkiel, 28 December 2011

To quote this article :

Émilie Frenkiel, « Democracy: Bridging the Representation Gap », Books and Ideas , 28 December 2011. ISSN : 2105-3030. URL :

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