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A 21st Century Defense of Participatory Democracy

  • Author(s): Vick, Jason;
  • Advisor(s): Topper, Keith;
  • et al.

This project investigates and answers one of the most important questions of contemporary democratic theory and practice, namely, the question of the place of widespread, active, and direct citizen participation in democratic politics today. Drawing on a wide range of theoretical and empirical resources, this project simultaneously reorients and reinvigorates the participatory ideals that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Challenging those who dismiss these ideals as misconceived, utopian or unrealistic, I demonstrate that when properly revised to account for the major developments of the past half-century, participatory democratic theory offers a compelling normative defense of democracy that is also essential for addressing the most pressing political and economic problems today. In particular, I organize the dissertation around three thematic questions: Are there contemporary examples of participatory democracy? Is the participatory ideal of economic democracy still realizable? Is democratic community possible in the twenty-first century? Each question, which relates to and builds on the previous one, works to critique, update, and rehabilitate participatory democracy so that it can be an empirically-informed, normatively challenging democratic theory well-suited to the demands of contemporary democratic theory and practice.

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