Participatory democracy is good for you
"We The People"
Developing a New Democracy
New Economics Foundation
ISBN N/A £4.99
review by Patrick Mangan
Perry Walker, the development director of the New Economics Foundationıs democracy programme and a member of InterAct, the participation network, leads his readers on a journey which begins with a 1774 speech by Edmund Burke. In this, Burke argues that public representation should be seen as powerful people speaking their minds on what they think is best and not bowing to the will of the people.
During the journey, Walker explores the poor state of democracy in western society, highlights problems and suggests new ways of thinking about democratic processes. He says that the decline in public participation in democracy has had social costs. These include the reduction of complex issues into "zero sum" situations in which one group wins at another group's expense rather than working out "win/win" collaborations.
Walker suggests that a reformed democratic society would make it easier for people to participate in decision-making, and that they could be assisted in forming their opinions through deliberative processes. A number of practical examples are presented, including citizens' juries, appreciative inquiry and preferenda. The latter are being used in Northern Ireland.
I found this an insightful book which made the abstract concept of democracy more accessible and real. With plenty of real world applications it is a bargain at £4.99, or you can download it free from the NEF website at www.neweconomics.org.
|This book review is from
Growth:The Celtic Cancer,
the second Feasta Review. Copies of the Review can be ordered online from Green Books, priced at £9.95 plus postage and packaging.