Participatory Democracy in Unlikely Places

What Democratic Theorists Can Learn from Democratic Professionals

in Democratic Theory
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  • 1 University of Canberra Selen.Ercan@canberra.edu.au
  • 2 Bowling Green State University awdzur@bgsu.edu
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Introduction to the interview

In an era when democracy is claimed to be in crisis, citizens are portrayed as increasingly distrustful of politicians and political institutions, and change, if any, is expected to be coming from extra-institutional spaces, Albert Dzur invites us to seek and find the seeds of democratic change within the existing institutions of representative democracy. Dzur’s work captures the difference democratic professionals can make in these spaces and tells us about the fresh approach they bring to their everyday routines in schools, community centers, government agencies, and even prisons. What links democratic professionals in different institutions is their aspiration to create power-sharing arrangements and collaborative thinking skills in places that are usually characterized as hierarchical and non-participatory. Dzur explains how democratic professionals transform the way institutions function and find solutions to collective problems. Yet such transformative practices often elude the attention of democratic theorists as they fall outside of the established notions of democracy and democratic change. The following interview focuses on the relationship between democratic theory and practice, the difference between social movement actors and democratic professionals, and the challenges of bringing democratic change and sustaining it in existing institutions, organizations and work places.

Contributor Notes

Albert Dzur is professor of political science and philosophy at Bowling Green State University. He is a democratic theorist with a particular interest in citizen deliberation and power-sharing in criminal justice, education, and public administration. His work focuses on the barriers to lay citizen participation in professional domains as well as the resources available for sharing authority and responsibility in typically hierarchical institutions. He is the author of Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury (Oxford University Press, 2012), Democratic Professionalism: Citizen Participation and the Reconstruction of Professional Ethics, Identity, and Practice (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008), and numerous articles in journals such as Constellations, Criminal Law and Philosophy, Law and Society Review, Political Theory, and Punishment and Society. He is also co-editor with Ian Loader and Richard Sparks of a forthcoming volume Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Democratic Theory

An Interdisciplinary Journal

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  • Dzur, Albert W. 2008. Democratic Professionalism: Citizen Participation and the Reconstruction of Professional Ethics, Identity, and Practice. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

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  • Dzur, Albert W. 2012a. “Four Theses on Participatory Democracy: Toward the Rational Disorganization of Government Institutions.” Constellations 19 (2): 305324.

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  • Dzur, Albert W. 2012b. Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury. New York: Oxford University Press.

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  • Dzur, Albert W. 2015. “The Democratic Roots of Academic Professionalism.” Pp. 5361 in Democracy’s Education: Public Work, Citizenship, and the Future of Colleges and Universities, ed. Harry C. Boyte. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

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  • Dzur, Albert W., Ian Loader, and Richard Sparks, eds. 2016. Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration. New York: Oxford University Press, in press.

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  • Ercan, Selen A., and Jean-Paul Gagnon. 2014. “The Crisis of Democracy: Which Crisis? Which Democracy?Democratic Theory 1 (2): 110.

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  • Wacquant, Loïc. 2009. Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity. Durham: Duke University Press.

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