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