The Party’s Over: Metamorphoses of Democratic Government

Abstract: The contrast between ancient Greek democracy as direct rule by the people, and modern democracy as indirect rule by elected representatives is in need of modification (Hansen, 2013). (Lane, 2012) has characterized Aristotle’s ideal democracy as ‘proto-Schumpeterian’ and (Hansen, 1999) has described the 4th-century Athenian development of randomly-selected legislative courts as a conservative reaction against the direct rule of the assembly. In a new paper (Hansen, 2013) outlines the change of democratic emphasis over three centuries in Athens: elective (sixth century), direct (fifth century), and sortive, viz. selection by lot (fourth century).

(Manin, 1997) has suggested that modern representative government has also evolved over three stages: parliamentary democracy, party democracy and finally ‘audience’ democracy, in which politicians appeal directly to the public in a similar manner to stage actors (and where the audience writes the script in real time). In audience democracy, as with direct democracy, political parties are superfluous. In this paper I argue that both the classical (direct) and modern (audience) models of democracy are inherently unstable and suggest that modern democracy may well parallel ancient democracy in evolving to a ‘sortive’ stage, where citizen juries, selected by lot, play a key role in the determination of legislative outcomes, and the role of political parties is limited to innovation and advocacy.

This is the abstract for my paper for the Political Studies Association annual conference, The Party’s Over (March 2013). I’d greatly appreciate any feedback, full text available here.