Etienne Chouard

I spoke to Etienne Chouard for the first time last night. He recommended the following TED talk he did:

It is close-captioned with English subtitles.

He also pointed me to the following talk (again in French) which unfortunately does not yet have subtitles:

I’ve only watched the first talk, and I must say I think he overstates a bit the worthlessness of elections. There is a reason why people like Mugabe resist elections so vehemently–it does offer some checks on arbitrary power. At the very least, they prevent one faction of the powerful from running roughshod over everyone, including other powerful people, and that can provide a measure of protection to everyone else.

Chouard expressed great appreciation for the work of Bernard Manin. I wonder what he thinks of the claim that representative government has both a democratic and an aristocratic side? I hope we will discuss this further with him.

12 Responses

  1. Like

  2. Here you are some translated into english lectures of Etienne Couard:


  3. It seems that Chouard talks here only about using sortition for a constitutional assembly – not for the legislature. Do you know if this is indeed his thinking?

    The fact that Mugabe resists elections shows that they are inconvenient for him, not that they are useful for the average person. That said, I agree that they are not completely worthless as a way to influence public policy.


  4. Hey, actually not Yoram, he’s also thinking of establishing a true democracy where in small communes the people could exerce the power directly thanks to sortition. This is very reducing, but we are currently working on translations in this group : and you’ll know more about it soon. If anyone can help us to translate from french-> english or from english to any other languages, it would be appreciated ! thanks a lot


  5. @Yoram
    Etienne Chouard is a long defender of sortition for the legislature as well as for the constitutional assembly. This -among other things- would lead people to begin to feel concern about the political issues of the State, enabling them to take part in decisions if they are one day randomly chosen.


  6. Mon Dieu! Chouard is is a magnificent exponent of the one-liner. I have watched some of the second video – you can switch on sub-titles in French if you can manage the French. Chouard is also extremely articulate, speaks quickly and uses very difficult expressions! (unlike the lady who spoke first).
    In general the thesis by Chouard is the same as in the short TED talk. His case – that because of elections for candidates we did not choose, and whom we cannot control once elected – we are not citizens, only electors. To illustrate this the video uses the current crisis in the financial markets, where the power of the banks can be traced to deliberate giving away by Parliament (or the government of the day, without a vote) of control of the currency from the sovereign power. I’m very interested in this stuff, but you may find it all a bit crazy, conspiratorial. But it’s true!
    The best agitators and explainers in the UK for reclaiming the power of money are where you can find out more about reform of the money system for the benefit of the people. Links are provided to similar organizations elsewhere.
    Chouard seems to have a soft spot for Switzerland as a ‘semi-democratic’ state, because of citizen assemblies in a few cantons, and the widespread use of referenda.
    But would a citizenry subject to sortition fare any better against corporate power and the influence it can deploy? (Unless you point out that the corporation exists as a creature of the state – never more graphically illustrated when the banks crashed and had to be bailed out – by us ‘citizens’.)


  7. […] Etienne Chouard « Equality by lot Démocratie ? Vous avez dit démocratie ? Pouvons-nous rester de marbre devant les récentes élections françaises où les électeurs n’avaient plus le choix qu’entre deux candidats dont 75% des français ne voulaient pas ? […]


  8. If you want to listen more from Etienne Chouard about democraty, watch this :

    It is subtitled in english, german and spanish.


  9. Hi Felix,

    We’ve linked to this talk by Chouard and had some discussion:

    I also wrote an itemized summary of his points in the talk:

    I wrote a response of sorts to Chouard’s (rather vague) point about “assemblies”: part 1, part 2.

    I am also still planning to pick up another point Chouard makes in the talk: the “controlling” devices (Dokimasia, Ostracism, Revocability, accountability).

    If you or someone else can give more specifics about Chouard’s proposals that would be great.


  10. Hi L14B,

    > Hey, actually not Yoram, he’s also thinking of establishing a true democracy where in small communes the people could exerce the power directly thanks to sortition.

    I’d be interested to read about this, although I am not a great believer in the idea of having a society based on “small communes”. I think society has moved beyond the stage where small scale politics is useful for making most of the important decisions.


  11. […] Chouard (and here, here, and here), Lawrence Lessig, David Chaum, Jacques Rancière, Clive Aslet, Jim Gilliam, Loïc […]


  12. Democracy – Looking for the mother of all causes – Etienne Chouard x TED


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