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Participatory Democracy in Unlikely Places

What Democratic Theorists Can Learn from Democratic Professionals

Selen A. Ercan and Albert Dzur

Selen A. Ercan’s Interview with Albert W. Dzur

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.

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Deliberative Democracy

Taking Stock and Looking Ahead - Selen A. Ercan with André Bächtiger

Selen A. Ercan and André Bächtiger

Deliberative democracy is a growing branch of democratic theory. It suggests understanding and assessing democracy in terms of the quality of communication among citizens, politicians, as well as between citizens and politicians. In this interview, drawing on his extensive research on deliberative practice within and beyond parliaments, André Bächtiger reflects on the development of the field over the last two decades, the relationship between normative theory and empirical research, and the prospects for practicing deliberation in populist times.

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The Crisis of Democracy

Which Crisis? Which Democracy?

Selen A. Ercan and Jean-Paul Gagnon

The introductory article to this special issue highlights three fundamental yet often neglected questions related to the current diagnosis of a crisis of democracy: What is meant by the term “crisis”? Which democracy is in crisis? And what, if anything, is “new” about the current crisis of democracy? We answer these questions by considering the multi-vocal contribution of purposefully curated short articles in this special issue. We argue that when engaging with the “crisis of democracy” diagnosis, it is important to unpack not only the normative presumptions one has in relation to what democracy is and should be, but also the recent transformations in the way politics is understood and practiced in contemporary societies.

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Editorial

Research Article

Jean-Paul Gagnon and Selen A. Ercan

Democratic Theory’s eleventh issue (6[1], July 2019) features four new research articles as well as an interview, a critical commentary, a practitioner’s note and a book review. It begins with Stephanie Erev’s article, which explains neoliberalism’s assaults on democracy and nature. Working through Hayek, Erev suggests that opposing neoliberal extractivist culture from both the democratic and ecological standpoints “may offer the greatest promise for creative and collaborative struggles toward new worlds and new ways of life” today.