There is a book that was written in 1989 called Democracy and its Critics. The renowned Robert Dahl is the author. In the book, he answers objections to critiques of democracy through a series of dialogues. One of them has stuck with me because I hear it so often: The problem with democracy is it is not democratic enough.
Many of the scholars who are featured on the Democracy Paradox have ideas or plans to make democracy more democratic. Many books, articles, and podcasts focus on ways to reform or redesign institutions so they can become more democratic. For example, Ezra Klein has a popular podcast. Every week he advocates for the Senate to drop the filibuster. Sure. Let’s do it. But we are delusional if we believe democracy is one reform away from perfection.
I invited Carolyn Hendriks, Selen Ercan, and John Boswell to join me because they examine democracy reform through a multidimensional lens. Rather than offering a single blueprint to redesign our institutions, they suggest we should continue to mend the damage in our existing framework. It is an achievable call to action where they raise the profile of some everyday heroes who have made positive contributions to repair the connections vital to democracy.
Carolyn is an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Governance at Australian National University, Selen is an Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Canberra, and John is an Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Southampton. They are the authors of Mending Democracy: Democratic Repair in Disconnected Times.
It’s always interesting when my guests are in Australia because it works best for me to call in the afternoon or evening so they can be reached the morning of the next day. This conversation had an extra wrinkle because John is in the UK so we coordinated this call across three time zones on three continents.
Whenever this many people are on a podcast, it can become difficult to know who says what. For that I apologize. But it was necessary. Their work was a collaborative effort. Indeed, a work like theirs cannot be anything but collaborative. Their research is, in many ways, about collaboration.
Our conversation will introduce some important concepts and theories about deliberative democracy. But it also offers some real-world examples. I cannot wait for you to learn about the Knitting Nanas Against Gas. They call themselves KNAG. There is so much I want to share right now. But it’s best if I relax and just let you listen.
Music from Apes of the State
Relevant Past Episodes
John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch on Citizen Initiative Review
Jill Long Thompson on Character in a Democracy
Relevant Articles on Democracy Paradox
Thoughts on Adam Przeworski's Crises of Democracy
Thoughts on E.B. White's On Democracy
Thoughts on Florence Brisset-Foucault's Talkative Polity