On Participatory Democracy

On Participatory Democracy

Richard Flacks’s article is the most serious discussion of “participatory democracy” that has yet come out of the New Left, and with most of it I am not in fundamental disagreement. I have some questions, or different emphases.

Flacks defines “participatory democracy” in a way all democrats can accept, namely, that “men must share in the decisions which affect their lives.” When he says that participatory democrats “seek to extend the conception of citizenship beyond the political sphere to all institutions,” he speaks in the best traditions of the democratic socialist movements. That their ideals have been inadequately served, shunted aside, and sometimes betrayed is certainly true; but to those who retain a democratic socialist conviction, the values suggested by “participatory democracy” are more crucial than ever.

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