AGAINST ELECTIONS by David Van Reybrouck


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A radical remedy to save the essence of democracy, which is diseased and potentially dying.

>The provocative title doesn’t tell the whole story. As European intellectual Van Reybrouck (Congo: The Epic History of a People, 2014, etc.) argues, what we need is not less democracy but purer democracy. Those who equate democracy with elections, he writes, are wrong. To the contrary, elections are anti-democratic, establishing a political aristocracy that is disconnected from and distrusted by voters. Thus, “it would appear that the fundamental cause of Democratic Fatigue Syndrome lies in the fact that we have all become electoral fundamentalists, despising those elected but venerating elections.” If DFS is the rapidly worsening disease, what is the cure? The author carefully builds a historical case for a return to the classic Athenian principles of democracy, in which citizens contributed not by vote but by lot. Those representing the masses in running the government were chosen the way that modern democracies generally choose juries, putting important decisions in the hands of citizens chosen randomly rather than by vote or merit and allowing them to deliberate toward a consensus. A fairly recent inspiration for this proposal comes from the concept of “deliberative democracy” advanced by a Texas academic, who proceeded from the oversized influence that unrepresentative states such as Iowa and New Hampshire have on the presidential selection process to suggest that a smaller, more diverse group be assembled to deliberate, a process that would be more likely to change minds than the polarization we have now. Among those most aghast at such a radical shift have been the political parties and the media, who serve as gatekeepers, as well as others with a vested interest in the status quo. However, “why do we accept the fact that lobbies, think tanks and all kinds of interest groups can influence policy yet hesitate to give a say to ordinary citizens, who are after all what it’s all about?”

Readers who disagree with the cure may at least recognize the incisiveness of the diagnosis.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-60980-810-5
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Seven Stories
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2018


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