AUP student taking a photo of the Seine during Orientation.

The Center for Critical Democracy Studies

Why Open Democracy?

Hybrid: Zoom/Q-609
Wednesday, February 9, 2022 - 17:00 to 18:30

This paper examines open democracy, the conception of democracy introduced by Hélène Landemore in her recent book of the same name. Open democracy offers both an institutional paradigm and a specification of democratic values underlying it. It differs from alternative conceptions of democracy through the institutions associated with it. Whereas contemporary democracies rely primarily upon elections and referenda, open democracy places randomly-selected minipublics and volunteer activists at its core. In doing so, however, it leaves the demos—the body of citizens as a whole—with little, if any, role to play in decision making. Is this compatible with democracy? It depends critically upon the set of democratic values associated with open democracy, a set that turns out to be highly revisionist in nature. Open democracy places political equality at its heart. This explains its central commitment to sortition as a selection method in place of election. But while democracy is indeed usually associated with political equality at an individual level, at a collective level it is associated with popular sovereignty or popular rule. It is Landemore’s revised understanding of these demands—one that effectively turns popular sovereignty into an individual and not a collective value, and that comes close to reducing it to political equality. The attractiveness of open democracy thus turns critically upon the question of whether democracy must advance collective values alongside individual values such as political equality.

Peter Stone is an associate professor and head of department in the political science department at Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of The Luck of the Draw: The Role of Lotteries in Decision Making (2011) and the editor of Lotteries in Public Life: A Reader (2011). He currently serves as president of the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI) and as co-convenor of the PSAI's Political Theory Specialist Group.


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