Powers behind control: An essay on democracy
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Session 3: Institutional rearrangement of the public domain
In contemporary Western democracies the role of government is not what it used to be. In the public discourse some authors claim to observe a ‘relocation of politics’, while others speak of a ‘democratic deficit’ in general. In this essay the relationship between democracy and governance is explored on a macro-level. The argument is that performance in the public domain and the decisions underlying it no longer in a direct way can be traced down to expressions of societal demands. This is because both the relationships between society and democracy and between politics and performance have become looser. In particular, the hierarchical relation between democracy and government has been replaced by a more horizontal pairing of democracy and governance. As the latter has multiple dimensions, entailing a range of activities performed at various spots by a variety of actors, it appears that democracy, as well, cannot appropriately get substance and form in a singular way anymore. Enhancing the visibility of who is involved in the processes leading to public decisions, combined with enlarging possibilities for accountability, ‘multi-localisation’ provides a conceptual perspective for rethinking contemporary democracy.
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