By Jean-Paul Gagnon (auth.)
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Extra info for Democratic Theorists in Conversation: Turns in Contemporary Thought
I do not think there’s a story you can tell about either, still less both: a) Because we do not know most of it, and b) because it does not have any sort of determinate shape. There are no criteria for what belongs inside and what does not belong inside it and there is no reason to see it as a connected course or sequence which leads towards anything in particular. So I do not think one can really think very effectively about that. One of the central theses of John Keane’s book is certainly right: that there have been ways of taking collective decisions, and that give some sort of conceptual and even honorific recognition to lots of the members of the community, in lots and lots of different places.
Democracy removed from the Greek origins narrative Gagnon: Your description of democratization as something different to democracy has, I think, another point buried within it. That act, of resisting power, and of using power to change norms in the effort to 20 Democratic Theorists in Conversation achieve flatter relations, as democratization, bequeaths for us at least one parameter of democracy that is possibly, probably, universal. Obviously that needs much further analysis meeting the demands of complexity and non-subjectivity – but it’s a tangible variable that humans can look to, as you said, across histories: across times and places.
So that is a very general idea indeed. ’ In there I think one can have very different conceptions (some people say models) of democracy and we can think for example of small scale communities in which there is participation by all those who have eligibility. Usually in many small scale societies it is male heads of the household that are the main participants (and that is an important aspect to which we need to perhaps come back and engage later). But then you can think of democracy on a much larger scale as a representative system and some representative systems as we know institutionalize the use of formal procedures like referendums and so on.