Participatory democracy: theory and models

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University of New Brunswick


This thesis deals with the subject of participatory democracy in the light of the basic insufficiency of representative democracy to adequately formulate or define a Rousseauian “general will.” The ontological bases of participatory democracy are explored, namely as they appear in the thought of Rousseau, Marx and Chomsky. Each of these authors takes a different approach to the topic, but each sees the necessity of participatory democracy emerging out of the inherent qualities of human beings, and as a manifestation of human freedom. A critique of representative democracy is generated, focusing primarily on the concept of representation itself. The second part of the thesis looks at historical and proposed models of participatory democracy, and takes the position that, to exist in the modern world, the institutional structure of participatory democracy would have to assume the form of the pyramidal council model.