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Participatory democracy, history of

Michael Menser


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Participatory democracy (PD) is that view of politics which calls for the creation and proliferation of practices and institutions that enable individuals and groups to better determine the conditions in which they act and relate to others. Because it stresses the role of individuals as agents, PD is often contrasted with liberal democratic models of governance because of the latter's reliance on representation. In both theory and practice, the application of PD is not limited to the political sphere but potentially encompasses all areas of human activity, including the public and private, the sociocultural and economic – again in contrast to liberal democratic models. Although a minor tradition within political philosophy and democratic theory, PD has enjoyed a resurgence in both practice and theory since the 1990s, especially with the emergence of the Zapatistas in 1994, but also due to the successes of an array of municipality-based projects in Latin America and India, and more broadly the innovations made by actors that identify with the global justice movement and/or participate in the World Social Forums . In the current period, PD approaches are most frequently found amongst anarchist, indigenous, feminist, ecological, and “solidarity economy” movements. The phrase “participatory democracy” gained currency in 1962 after Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) issued ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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