Participatory Democracy and Rational Disorganization

Albert W. Dzur

in Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199874095
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199980024 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Penal Theory and Philosophy

Participatory Democracy and Rational Disorganization

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As in the previous chapter, this chapter seeks to uproot entrenched intellectual obstacles to participatory democracy, this time within political theory. Lay citizens without the guidance of experts are commonly viewed as handicapped by lack of knowledge, experience, and by being too numerous; even democratic theorists like Rousseau are modest about citizens’ ability to govern themselves without strict institutional constraints. Mainstream political science, exemplified by Hibbing and Theiss-Morse, provides apparent empirical support for more rather than less expert and representative government by showing lay citizens as uninterested in greater participation or civic responsibility. Progressive intellectuals Wolin and Morone have also argued that once integrated into formal governmental institutions, popular participation becomes co-opted and counterproductive. To overcome these challenges, this chapter introduces the concept of rational disorganization, the idea that power-sharing collaboration between laypeople and officials on complex tasks, such as reaching a verdict, draws on public practical reason, allows for reflexivity about rules and procedures, and permits greater attention to individual cases. Rational disorganization explains how participatory democratic institutions like the jury empower and give responsibility to citizens without overburdening or bureaucratizing them.

Keywords: civic responsibility; Hibbing; knowledge; lay participation; Morone; participatory democracy; political theory; Rousseau; Theiss-Morse; Wolin

Chapter.  8599 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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