Ph.D. thesis: Kleros & Demos

Dear all,

I started to work on sortition for more than 11 years ago. When I started, I felt really alone because it seemed that this topic interested no one on earth. At the same time this was quite exciting (“I am the first one!” feeling). But I quickly encountered many people having the same interest, and it was a very good feeling. Today it seems that the idea of random selection in politics gains growing interest not only in academia but also in the political world.

I hope that this trend will go on.

In the meantime I was able to start and finish a Ph.D. thesis. I wanted to share with you the weblink where you can download it. I wrote it under the supervision of Gil Delannoi and Gerhard Göhler at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris and the Freie Universität Berlin.

The English abstract reads as follows:

The field of investigation of this thesis is a corpus of texts containing proposals for the intro­duction of random selection schemes in politics. The thesis questions the relevance and coher­ence of these texts: do the publications form a theoretical ensemble that could be labelled as a “theory of aleatory democracy”? If so, do the expectations raised by its supporters remain merely utopian or do they stand the test of the political practice?

The  quantitative and qualit­ative analysis of the text corpus leads to the conclusion that we are in fact dealing with the emergence of a theory and that the analysed authors develop a common argumentative frame and common expectations: the use of random selection in politics could be a solution to over­come the crises of liberal democracies. Its use would allow a better formal and substantial representation, a qualitatively and quantitatively increased participation, and give birth to a new, more procedural and dynamic form of legitimacy. These expectations are then tested with the help of two mini-publics, that is to say, experiments in participatory democracy that use random selection to recruit their participants: a Planungszelle and a Citizens’ Jury. The qualitative empirical investigation shows that most of the expectations are fulfilled, although only in a limited geographical, social and political frame. These results raise the double ques­tion of the conditions for the realization of the theory and of the possible improvement of the mini-public mechanisms through institutional engineering.

The text is in French and there is a short version in German.

I hope this thesis will support our discussion on sortition. And I will try to post from time to time to keep you informed of the projects I do with Missions Publiques. We are designing and facilitating Mini-Publics and there are a lot of interesting developments there.


Antoine Vergne


Sortition and the Consolidation of Democracy

Oliver Dowlen is announcing the following seminar (more details to follow):

Sortition and the Consolidation of Democracy

A Seminar at Queen Mary College University of London

10th-11th October 2013

This seminar is part of a series on the political value of sortition (random selection) put on by CEVIPOF at Sciences Po in Paris. It is the first in the series to be held in Britain and the first attempt to focus the discussion on a particular modern problem.

There are two seminar sessions: 2.00pm- 5.30pm on Thursday 10th October and 9.30am – 1.00pm on Friday 11th October. In them we will set out to explore how the practice of selecting citizens for public office by lottery, the mainstay of Athenian democracy and late medieval popular republicanism, could contribute to the creation of stable, participatory institutions and procedures in modern states. The proposal is that this could be of immense value for states which are undertaking transitions to democratic rule or are seeking to strengthen their democratic practices.

Speakers incude:

  • Gil Delannoi (Sciences Po)
  • Oliver Dowlen (QMUL)
  • Barbara Goodwin (UEA)
  • Mindy Peden (John Carroll)
  • Peter Stone (Trinity College, Dublin)

For further information contact Oliver Dowlen: or

Sortition in The Marxist Center

Jacob Richter emailed about a new Marxist website he is involved in called The Marxist Center. The website has an article by J. Levi titled “To Win the Battle of Democracy” which discusses sortition as a possible component of “Communist Democracy”:

An interesting model is demarchy. This refers to representatives being randomly selected, much like the jury system in the US. But it would have the same problems as the US jury system, a lot of Americans have a feeling of apathy towards the jury system, they would rather not get selected than they would. Because the people have no influence in the selecting of the representatives they would feel alienated from the decision-making process, because they can exercise no influence over the process. This could be solved by recallability but this could also lead to the problem of being unable to govern because of constant recalls. Continue reading

‘Klerostocracy’: a new contributor’s ideas

Terry Hulsey is a writer living in Fort Worth, Texas, who has asked me to flag this:

Instituting Meritocracy After the Collapse of Democracy in America

“Democracy in America has failed. The Framers would not have been surprised.

The central idea of the American Experiment is that our several states have united to form a republic of strictly limited federal power, not a democracy. Without understanding this kernel idea, that the founders repudiated democracy and consciously labored to restrain it, there simply no possibility of understanding the meaning of America.

The specific conditional campaign that will bridle democracy, that will restore federalism in Madison’s sense, is one that mobilizes support for the passage of the Twenty-Eighth Amendment (below) to randomize the election of Congressmen and Senators, and indirectly, the President of the United States.”


On Netiquette

A recent comment on this forum chided me for intemperate criticism of the Trinity Dublin report, to which I can only hold up my hands and plead guilty. It occurred to me, though, that a general post outlining some of the frustrations that led up to these remarks might possibly help prevent a future recurrence.

So far as I’m aware, Equality by Lot is the only internet forum dedicated to sortition, my sole research interest for over ten years. The value of such forums is the opportunity to discuss with other people with an interest in the field in order to develop and enhance one’s own understanding and correct one’s prejudices and misunderstanding. I’ve found this forum invaluable in this respect and my thinking on sortition is now completely different from ten years ago.
Continue reading