Battle of Ideas: Democracy and its Discontents at the 2007 Battle of Ideas conference hosted by the Institute of Ideas.Winston Churchill famously quipped that democracy 'is the worst form of government - except for all those other forms'. In 2007, he would surely be surprised by the way democracy has come to be seen as the answer to all our ills. On the high street shoppers are said to exercise 'consumer democracy'; in war zones citizen-journalists are said to be democratising the news media. Lay people are included through focus groups and ethics bodies to create a more democratic science; and alternative medicine is seen as an expression of citizens' democratic choice. The internet is discussed as a means to democratise knowledge, and 'open-source' boffins beaver away to create democratic software beyond the control of multinational corporations. And of course, Western foreign policy is dominated by the idea of 'democratising' the world.Democracy, it seems, is everywhere. But how do we square this profusion of democracy with popular disengagement from democratic politics at the ballot box? Politicians prefer to talk about 'participative' rather than representative democracy, and in response to public apathy, they have embraced new technologies - from e-democracy to Reality TV-style 'phone-in' democracy - and new styles of communicating with citizens. But are citizens' juries and 'listening' politicians really more democratic than traditional party politics? Are we witnessing a blooming the birth of a new kind of democracy, or rather the degradation of the old? - IoImoreless
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