How to Improve the Quality of Democracy? Experiences with Participatory Innovations at the Local Level in Germany

in German Politics and Society

Despite the world-wide triumph of democracy, the quest for an optimal politike has not yet reached the “end of history.” It turns out that representative democracies do not necessarily satisfy citizenries. These malaises are regarded as causes for concern and political actors increasingly pin their hopes on participatory innovations as re-legitimizing responses. But do they work? Germany is an especially interesting case for empirical research. Analysis of the variety of participatory innovations utilized at the local level in Germany—often varying considerably among the different Bundesländer—provides preliminary insights. The German case shows overall that participatory innovations have the potential to cure some of the current malaises of representative democracy. Participatory innovations, however, are certainly no fast-track cure. The useful implementation of participatory innovations requires comprehensive consideration, caution, and, (up to now limited) knowledge about possibilities and pitfalls.