Why should such a concise text about basic rights, which is fewer than 2, words long, pay particular attention to the practical execution of one of these rights? It is as if the people who compiled the declaration back in had come to see the specific method as a basic right, as if the procedure was in itself sacred. It would appear that the fundamental cause of democratic fatigue syndrome lies in the fact that we have all become electoral fundamentalists, venerating elections but despising the people who are elected. Electoral fundamentalism is an unshakeable belief in the idea that democracy is inconceivable without elections and elections are a necessary and fundamental precondition when speaking of democracy.
Electoral fundamentalists refuse to regard elections as a means of taking part in democracy, seeing them instead as an end in themselves, as a doctrine with an intrinsic, inalienable value. This blind faith in the ballot box as the ultimate base on which popular sovereignty rests can be seen most vividly of all in international diplomacy. When western donor countries hope that countries ravaged by conflict — such as Congo, Iraq or Afghanistan — will become democracies, what they really mean is this: they must hold elections, preferably on the western model, with voting booths, ballot papers and ballot boxes; with parties, campaigns and coalitions; with lists of candidates, polling stations and sealing wax, just like we do.
And then they will receive money from us. Local democratic and proto-democratic institutions village meetings, traditional conflict mediation or ancient jurisprudence stand no chance. These things may have their value in encouraging a peaceful and collective discussion, but the money will be shut off unless our own tried-and-tested recipe is adhered to.
If you look at the recommendations of western donors, it is as if democracy is a kind of export product, off the peg, in handy packaging, ready for dispatch. And if the resulting piece of furniture is lopsided, uncomfortable to sit on or falls apart? That elections do not automatically foster democracy, but may instead prevent or destroy it, is conveniently forgotten. We insist that in every country in the world people must traipse off to the polling stations. Our electoral fundamentalism really does take the form of a new, global evangelism.
Elections are the sacraments of that new faith, a ritual regarded as a vital necessity in which the form is more important than the content. This single-minded focus on elections is actually rather odd.
Table of Contents
During the past 3, years, people have been experimenting with democracy and only in the last have they practised it exclusively by holding elections. Yet we regard elections as the only valid method. Force of habit is at play here, of course, but there is a more simple cause, based on the fact that elections have worked pretty well over the past two centuries.
Despite a number of notoriously bad outcomes, they have very often made democracy possible. However, elections originated in a completely different context from the one that they function in today. The forerunners of our representative democracy had no idea that any of these things would come into existence. Elections are the fossil fuel of politics. Whereas once they gave democracy a huge boost, much as oil did for our economies, it now turns out they cause colossal problems of their own. If we obstinately hold on to a notion of democracy that reduces its meaning to voting in elections and referendums, at a time of economic malaise, we will undermine the democratic process.
In the years after the second world war, western democracies were dominated by large mass parties, and they held the structures of the state in their hands. Through a network of intermediary organisations, such as unions, corporations and party media, they succeeded in being close to the lives of individual citizens. This resulted in an extremely stable system, with great party loyalty and predictable voting behaviour. This changed in the s and s, when discourse was increasingly shaped by the free market. Party newspapers disappeared or were bought up by media concerns, commercial broadcasters entered the field and even public broadcasters increasingly adopted market thinking.
Viewing, reading and listening figures became hugely important — they were the daily share price index of public opinion.
- Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th Edition).
- Why elections are bad for democracy.
- Headhood, Elements, Specification and Contrastivity: Phonological Papers in Honour of John Anderson.
- In Mistrust We Trust. Can Democracy Survive When We Don't Trust Our Leaders?;
- East Asian Law: Universal Norms and Local Cultures.
- How We Can Build Trust Again;
Commercial mass media emerged as the most important builders of social consensus, and organised civil society lost ground. The consequences were predictable, as citizens became consumers and elections hazardous. Parties began to see themselves less as intermediaries between people and power, and instead settled into the fringes of the state apparatus. To retain their places there, they had to turn to the voter every few years to top up their legitimacy.
Elections became a battle fought out in the media for the favour of voters. The passions aroused among the populace diverted attention from a far more fundamental emotion, an increasing irritation with anything and everything pertaining to politics. The Italy of Silvio Berlusconi came closest to fitting this definition of the post-democratic state but elsewhere too we have seen processes that tend in that direction.
Since the end of the 20th century, citizens have started looking like their 19th-century predecessors. Because civil society has become weaker, a gulf has opened up again between the state and the individual. After the rise of the political parties, the introduction of universal suffrage, the rise and fall of organised civil society and the dominance of commercial media, another factor has now been added: social media.
At the beginning of the 21st century, citizens could follow the political theatre, minute by minute, on radio, television or the internet, but today they can respond to it from second to second and mobilise others. The culture of immediate reporting now has instant feedback, resulting in even more of a cacophony. The work of the public figure, and especially the elected politician, is not made easier by any of this.
He or she can immediately see whether new proposals appeal to the citizen, and indeed just how many people the citizen can whip up. New technology gives people a voice, but the nature of this new political involvement makes the electoral system creak at the joints all the more. For radio and television, national politics has become a daily soap opera, and while editors determine to some extent the framing, the script and the typecasting, politicians, with varying degrees of success, try to slant things this way or that. This collective hysteria has made election fever permanent and has serious consequences for the workings of democracy.
Efficiency suffers under the electoral calculus, legitimacy under the continual need to distinguish oneself, while time and again, the electoral system ensures that the long term and the common interest lose out to the short term and party interests. Elections were once invented to make democracy possible, but in these circumstances they seem to be a hindrance. Since we have reduced democracy to selecting representatives, and reduced representative democracy to mean simply voting, a valuable system is now mired in deep difficulties.
Winning the next election has become more important than fulfilling the promises made in the last. Making the best of the system we have is becoming increasingly difficult. What kind of democracy is appropriate to an era of fast, decentralised communication? How should the government deal with all those articulate citizens who stand shouting from the sidelines?
Imagine having to develop a system today that would express the will of the people. Would it really be a good idea to have them all queue up at polling stations every four or five years with a bit of card in their hands and go into a dark booth to put a mark next to names on a list, names of people about whom restless reporting had been going on for months in a commercial environment that profits from restlessness? People care deeply about their communities and want to be heard.
But a much better way to let the people speak than through a referendum is to return to the central principle of Athenian democracy: drafting by lot, or sortition as it is presently called. In ancient Athens, the large majority of public functions were assigned by lot.
„Democracy, Internet, Transparency” – The 22nd Tischner Debate
Renaissance states such as Venice and Florence worked on the same basis and experienced centuries of political stability. With sortition, you do not ask everyone to vote on an issue few people really understand, but you draft a random sample of the population and make sure they come to the grips with the subject matter in order to take a sensible decision. A cross-section of society that is informed can act more coherently than an entire society that is uninformed. Experiments with sortition have been successfully applied in the US, Australia, and the Netherlands.
The most innovative country so far is certainly Ireland. In December , a constitutional convention began work in order to revise several articles of the constitution of Ireland. Its members were not just a committee of MPs working behind closed doors, but a mixture of elected politicians and ordinary people: 33 elected politicians and 66 citizens, drafted by lot, from both Ireland and Northern Ireland.
This group met one weekend per month for more than a year. An independent research bureau put together the random group of 66 citizens, taking account of age, sex and place of birth. The diversity this produced was helpful when it came to discussing such subjects as same-sex marriage, the rights of women or the ban on blasphemy in the current constitution. However, they did not do all this alone: participants listened to experts and received input from other citizens more than a thousand contributions came in on the subject of gay marriage.
The decisions made by the convention did not have the force of law; the recommendations first had to be passed by the two chambers of the Irish parliament, then by the government and then in a referendum. By talking to a diverse cross-section of Irish society, politicians could get further than they could have by just talking to each other. By exchanging views with elected officials, citizens could give much more relevant input than they could have in an election or a referendum.
What if this procedure had been applied in the UK last week? What if a random sample of citizens had a chance to learn from experts, listen to proposals, talk to each other and engage with politicians? What if a mixed group of elected and drafted citizens had thought the matter through? What if the rest of society could have had a chance to follow and contribute to their deliberations?
What if the proposal this group would have come up with had been subjected to public scrutiny? Do we think a similarly reckless decision would have been taken? Sortition could provide a remedy to the democratic fatigue syndrome that we see everywhere today. The drawing of lots is not a miracle cure any more than elections ever were, but it can help correct a number of the faults in the current system. How can we get out of it?
At this point I would like to name one actor who can solve this problem, but this is impossible. I bet a bit on the state and I wish I could bet more on the grassroots activity. A while ago I listened to a podcast on designing… fire escapes in buildings. In the 19th century USA there were virtually no fire escapes and no fire brigades to help save people from fires in buildings.
And years later we have fire brigades and fire escapes. Things do change over time if we talk about it. Someone in that podcast said, that a huge fire in New York, when over people died, proved that architecture does not protect us. We need to protect ourselves from architecture. I think we can say the same thing about Internet and it does not mean the Internet or architecture is bad.
Building is not evil — in some cases we just need to be smarter than it is. Ivan Krastev: My interest in Internet and transparency started with two observations. Second fact which made me ponder upon this issue was a decision made by a Bulgarian prime minister, Boyko Borisov. Immediately after being elected in Borisov declared all the meetings of the council of ministers would be accessible to public two hours after they finish.
Why Major Institutions Lost Public Trust, and How They Can Gain It Back
Borisov is not famous for a strong democratic instinct. Why did he do it, then? It was the best way to close the mouths of his ministers. Normally, discussions during government meetings were rather intense. But when you know that everything is going to be public, you realize, that any major disagreement means government crisis. As a result people control themselves. We should not fall in love with the transparency paradigm. Something that was a desirable utopia yesterday, may turn into a nightmare when it becomes reality. I believe that the popular transparency paradigm is based on three illusions.
So there will be a decision by consensus simply because all of us have symmetrical information. This is not true. We can get the same information, but make different decisions based on our different experiences and values To try to reduce all political disagreements to the asymmetry of information is a false view of what policy is about and how society functions. The second illusion is that we can combine fully transparent governments with private citizens keeping their privacy intact.
Yet, even if the government is transparent, it is collecting information about its people. So citizens are going to be transparent too. The last illusion concerns trust. Many of us will say the part of the problems democracy is facing today is the crisis of trust and that transparency automatically creates more trust. We somehow tend to forget that trust is not something simply based on the availability of information.
I therefore argue we should not fall in love with the transparency paradigm. An argument can be made that people pushing for full transparency misunderstand the way politics and democracy function and that we need dark corners for deals and bargaining.
Five Star Movement in Italy also embarked on an agenda of radical transparency. They bring cameras even to meetings between the leader of the party and prime minister which normally would be private. However, their goal is not to make everything transparent in order to increase trust. They believe the more they reveal of this corruption, the sooner the system will fall and I think they are right. With regards to other subjects we tackled — I also would love to see the state being more active.
They have done the exact opposite and continue to do it. Not only in national capitals, but also in Brussels. The European Commission has become the primary vehicle for privatizing our telecommunication infrastructure. There is no reference to public interest in the vision they have for future of telecommunications. Because citizens are not represented in the meetings in Brussels. The only people represented are the lobbyists of big telecom companies.
If we think about state in a broader way, as the only existing representative structure, we might try an intellectual experiment — how can we reclaim that structure for ourselves. Ivan Krastev: Evgeny made an interesting point. Transparency could be a good revolutionary instrument but it is not a good instrument for reforming democracy. The moment radical protests movements entered the political life, they abandoned the type of horizontal, transparent, Internet community based political strategy, in favor of an old-fashioned party structure.
Spanish Podemos and Greek Syriza have charismatic and powerful leaders alike those from the beginning of the 20th century. Mistrust may also serve as a tool for political empowerment but when it becomes the default solution in any political discussions, the system quickly starts using it for its own benefit. First: is the Internet a possible platform for direct democracy? Katarzyna Szymielewicz: For me the key question is framing the issues discussed on such a forum.
Who will moderate the discussion? As some experts on Spanish politics point out, the issues are framed in a way which guarantees predictable and desirable answers. Ivan Krastev: There was big excitement when Iceland decided to outsource their constitutional process.
This is an interesting experiment. But it has a problem: in this kind of participation you need to know who participates. Above all people with a lot of free time. Thus in Internet based political participation we end up with overrepresenting certain groups of society and underrepresenting other. Evgeny Morozov: In thinking about democracy and Internet the right framework of reference is not necessarily democracy, but autonomy.
Can we have an environment in the future in which local communities feel more autonomous and empowered than before? Technological preconditions for that are easy to specify. You can think of a future in which a community from the same neighbourhood, instead of relying on centralized bus service compare the travel routes on their phones, discover they all travel in the same direction and organize a bus route of their own.
That would stress their autonomy and lessen their dependence on centralized structures, but for that to happen those people need to have access to the data they generate. Alek Tarkowski: Our goal should be to decentralize communal systems. That was not the case. However, I do not think that relying solely on the benevolence of VKontakte, Facebook or Twitter is a sustainable long-term strategy. There is one thing about the social media, which I believe affects this type of political mobilization.
How do you decide to go on the street? One of the reasons is the feeling that there is a new majority. And one way to get that feeling is through observing what is happening on your Facebook page. But when you see the rest suddenly speaking about revolution, you start to feel that something is changing in the whole society.
Probably it is not because your Facebook fiends are only a tine fraction of this society, but your readiness to go on the street increases. And when suddenly you have thousands on the street, it can immediately changes the political dynamics. Social media can create imaginary majorities which then turn into real ones. At this point, however, other, more traditional media — like television — become more important.
Have Facebook and Twitter opened up new possibilities of civic self-organization? What impact do mass identity theft and data leaks have on democratic governments? How big is the risk posed by cyberattacks? The time has come to change the story we tell about contemporary Poland. The 25 th anniversary of the first free elections in its modern history appears to be a celebration which has Polish citizens smiling, but at the same drinking from the cup of bitter experience.
Many of the heroes who created the free Poland of today hand their disappointments down to the generations that follow.
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In recent years, many renowned intellectuals have subjected contemporary Poland to severe criticism. As far back as May [sic! Too many people in Poland, however, have mistaken freedom for lawlessness, free market economics for daylight robbery, while the idea of democratic discipline is nowhere to be seen. People seem to have lost their minds. These examples show that anyone who thinks that elites over the past 25 years have not addressed the social harm caused by the process of liberation from communism is simply wrong.
Perhaps Poles are unable to mobilise themselves into further action without first propagating a negative vision of the period of Transformation? Any sort of suggestion that the current Polish state has failed, whether put forward by the Left or the Right, in part feeds on fictional data. An obvious example of this is the question of rising inequality, which is often referred to. Let us then take a careful look at the evidence. According to Eurostat, between the years and , inequality in Poland has dropped, not risen.
It would be honest to mention that some economists have questioned this cheerily optimistic data, stating that the measuring criteria used to assess inequality the so-called Gini coefficient , is inadequate when applied to Polish realities. Even if we apply this adjustment, the conclusions are similar: the disparity in income among Poles has not increased in recent years. Overall assessment of the complex phenomenon that is social inequality, using solely analyses of wages, is too simplistic a dissection of reality. Apart from income, subjective perceptions of quality of life are also of importance, as well as whether citizens feel they are treated with dignity by the state and their employers.
Here, the forming of a singular opinion is even more difficult. If, however, the patient is not doing too well, then of greater importance is a correct diagnosis of illness — hence, why does the feeling of success appear to continually slip through Polish fingers? More and more sociologists and analysts are coming to believe that the correct criterium which separates Poles into winners and losers, following the period of Transformation, is not so much wealth, as the ability to think, to create relationships, as well as class and educational status.
The film attracted huge numbers of audiences.