Who benefits from democracy

Neo-Politics: Reinventing Democracy

From the crisis of narration to the revitalization of politics

The Munich sociologist Armin Nassehi calls for a narrative in his recently published volume “The recovery of the political” that describes how to deal with the complexity of society and at the same time is able to address collectivities: pacifying society overcoming the “narrative crisis” that has arisen from a lack of representation. It is about producing and reproducing debates, narratives and social self-descriptions - with the aim of stabilizing a social order that would otherwise break due to its contradictions.

Political personnel and democracy are not the problem, but can contribute to the solution. Democracy is more than voting. Elections are not an end in themselves, but a method of shaping democracy. Elections are an expression of a civil society that is as self-organizing and free as possible. The parties must not take control of this civil society, but must contribute to empowering their sponsors, citizens, associations and foundations to regulate public tasks as freely as possible. Its principles are: decentralized before central, horizontal instead of vertical, “bottom-up” instead of “top-down”.

“We have long been in the age of permanent interactivity,” writes Belgian political scientist David Van Reybrouck. “Hyper-fast, decentralized communication creates new maturity. But which democracy goes with it? ”Reybrouck proposes a new way, a combination of representative and deliberative democracy. The core idea: The citizens should have a say and not just allow themselves to be governed! Democracy must be experienced again! Reducing it to the electoral act has done democracy a disservice. It is time to change that and create new spaces for public and political advice. Democracy is not the problem, it is the solution. It's about democratizing democracy.

The new answers: representation plus participation

In the future, stories will be needed that do not correspond to the old milieus of the 19th and 20th centuries. The great merit of social democracy was to reconcile the ideas of socialism with democracy. The great achievement of Christian Democracy was to combine conservatism with pluralism. And the success of parliamentary democracy in the 20th century was the institutionalization of the conflicts and fears of the old industrial society.

Today people have different worries and fears. It is no longer about bare survival or exploitation by capitalism, but about orientation in an increasingly complex world that seems to be falling apart. It's no longer about "right versus left", but about "open or closed". It is about a policy that is defined by participation and belonging, or about exclusion and identity.

In the future, political leadership will no longer mean making decisions on behalf of the citizens. Rather: to set processes in motion together with them, the decisions of which are ultimately accepted by as many as possible. The relationship between politicians and citizens is no longer one between parents and children, but one between adults.

Van Reybrouck proposes a new procedure: citizens who are determined by lot should participate in the legislative process. The right to choose is combined with the right to be heard. The Citizens are taken out of the voting booth or from the sofa and made responsibleby having to develop solutions. And the politicians are forced to grapple with these solutions and then decide. Citizen participation and direct democracy can be a way and an opportunity to renew democracy.

Citizen participation increases satisfaction with democracy and the acceptance of political decisions. In Switzerland and Baden-Württemberg, the Change from representative to diverse democracy practiced successfully for a long time. The new model of participatory democracy meets with greater approval than the model of purely representative democracy. Citizens in both countries are happier, more economically successful and more socially engaged.

Why don't we bring a number of citizens together in the next election campaign, together with all party candidates, and let the citizens question the candidates about their plans and discuss them with one another? The whole thing should be available on television so that other citizens can also make better decisions. The participants should be drawn by lot and receive an allowance to ensure maximum diversity.

For the media, especially the public service, such an approach would be a great opportunity to be taken seriously again when it comes to politics. With staged talk shows and interviews, they have been contributing to disenchantment with politics and the elite for years Scandalization, polarization and moralization. The parties fight for the best ideas and solutions, and the citizens advise and in the end cast their vote for the election. Whether or not the voter lets himself be influenced by this when going to the ballot box is up to him in the end.

Accelerator and agent one Revitalizing democracy are creative politicianswho see themselves as “political entrepreneurs”: They not only serve existing demands and interests, but generate new ones by offering a new policy. For them, representation no longer means re-presentation - the reproduction of something that already exists - but the creation of something that did not exist before. You embody the new type of politician, the “democratic populist”.

Marina Weisband, the former spokeswoman for the "Pirates", has defined the entrepreneurial politician as an "open politician" who combines three criteria:

  • authenticity
  • enlightenment
  • Responsiveness

A revitalization of democracy goes hand in hand with one Politics of authenticity and vitality as well as with a culture change. This can be described as the “politics of commitment”, where “commitment” means: obligation and commitment to a cause that as many as possible perceive as good and fair.

At the beginning there is always the same question: What are our common values, goals and concerns?

Kucklick, Christoph (2015): The granular society. How the digital dissolves our reality. Berlin.
Nassehi, Armin (2016): The recovery of the political. A confrontation with refusal to vote and uncompromising protest. Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Van Reybrouck, David (2016): Against Elections. Why voting is not democratic. Goettingen.
Weisband, Marina (2013): We call it politics. Ideas for a contemporary democracy. Stuttgart.