Networks and democratic ideals: Equality, freedom, and communication

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Democratic theory has historically proceeded under the assumption that the proper — and perhaps exclusive — locus of political authority is the sovereign state claiming exclusive political authority over a defined territory and population. A well-defined demos can therefore accompany the sovereign state, with a claim to popular control over policy decisions that is fairly straightforward — at least in theory, if rarely in practice. The democratic ideal of political equality can then be defined in terms of the equal capacity of all citizens in the demos to exercise control over policy decisions. Additionally, state democracy in practice is almost always liberal democracy. And liberal democratic theorists can specify a number of rights — freedom of thought, expression, association, and assembly, more controversially rights to private property and subsistence — necessary to make such a system work.2 Public authority so constructed constitutes a relatively neat package. Those wedded to such a picture greet any departure with horror. So for example Lowi (1999) condemns the cooperative environmental governance applauded by Sabel et al. (1999) as an abdication of public authority that allows stakeholders to generate outcomes that suit themselves — but at the expense of a public interest properly defined at the highest levels of state government.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheories of Democratic Network Governance
EditorsEva Sørensen, Jacob Torfing
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780230625006
ISBN (Print)9781403995285
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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