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Reforming Democracy in Disconnected Times: A Deliberative Systems Approach

Democracy
Governance
Selen A. Ercan
Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra
John Boswell
University of Southampton
Selen A. Ercan
Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra
Carolyn Hendriks
Australian National University
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Abstract

The capacity of participatory reforms to ‘save representative democracy’ depends in large part on how we define the challenges facing contemporary democratic institutions. In this paper we advance the argument that at the heart of the current democratic malaise lie a series of dysfunctional ‘democratic disconnections’. Drawing on recent systems thinking in the field of deliberative democracy we diagnose three key disconnections facing representative democracy: i) disconnections between citizens and their elected representatives, ii) disconnections between multiple publics of a public sphere, iii) disconnections between various governance processes. These disconnections produce subtle forms of exclusion and coercion that scholars of democratic innovation currently overlook or elide. We argue that deliberative systems approach can help to address these disconnects, if it focuses on forging connections not only between different sites, but also between different actors, between different participatory repertoires, and between governance processes. We use various case studies to illustrate different types of disconnections and to substantiate our argument about the need for greater connectivity in contemporary democracies. Developing practical means to foster greater connectivity opens up a much broader range of possibilities for thinking about democratic intervention in disconnected times.