Anthology on Democratic Innovation

Report by Democracy Lab: “Democratic systems are in a phase of systemic transition: from the post-war understanding of what democracy is – and how it works – towards a different, deeper democracy. In regards to the numerous challenges democracies faces, we need to question how to make democracies more resilient and to explore what the next steps towards a new form of democracy could be. It seems unlikely that today’s challenges, such as the destruction of our ecosystem or structural inequality, can be solved with the paradigms, structures and processes that helped produce them.

Democratic systems need to be able to shape an increasingly complex world and respond to the socio-economic, cultural, technological, and ecological transformation processes that societies are going through. Public discourse about the future of democracy often solely focuses on democratic reforms in order to improve existing structures and processes within the parameters of postwar democracy.

Many ideas and experiments thus aim at improving the “status quo of politics”. From citizens’ assemblies to digital tools for deliberation and participation, there is an abundance of ideas and tools that could help update our democratic systems. In his book “Realizing Democracy”, Harvard scholar Alberto Mangabeira Unger adds a new element to this “update” with his idea of radical reform: In his words, “reform is radical when it addresses and changes the basic arrangements of a society; its formative structure of its institutions and enacted beliefs; it is reform because it deals with one discrete part of this structure at a time.” According to Unger, societies must work on both the radical and incremental level of political reform. In addition to changes at policy level, societies must be willing to also reflect on what would make a difference and open up to a more fundamental perspective and self-reflection on why democracy is needed, and how its structures can be rebuild within the boundaries of the ecosystem….

The Anthology on Democratic Innovation presents a selection of the projects and ideas discussed during the Conference. It gives decision-makers, academia, journalists and civil society a glimpse into the vast array of ideas that are “already out there” in order to improve liberal democracies and make them fit for the 21st century….(More)”.