postdemocracy

Democracy thrives when there are major opportunities for the mass of ordinary people actively to participate, through discussion and autonomous organisations, in shaping the agenda of public life, and when these opportunities are being actively used by them. This is ambitious in expecting very large numbers of people to participate actively in serious political discussion and in framing the agenda, rather than be the passive respondents to opinion polls, and to be knowledgeably engaged in following political events and issues. This is an ideal model which can almost never be fully achieved, but like all impossible ideals it sets a marker…

The issue becomes more intriguing when we confront the ambitious ideal… with what I have in mind as post-democracy. Under this model, while elections certainly exist and can change governments, public electoral debate is a tightly controlled spectacle, managed by rival teams of professionals expert in the techniques of persuasion, and considering a small range of issues selected by those teams. The mass of citizens plays a passive, quiescent, even apathetic part, responding only to signals given them. Behind this spectacle of the electoral game politics is really shaped in private by interaction between elected governments and elites which overwhelmingly represent business interests.

This model, like the maximal ideal, is also an exaggeration, but enough elements of it are recognisable in our contemporary politics to make it worth while asking where our political life stands on a scale running between it and the maximal democratic model, and in particular to appraise which direction it seems to be moving between them. It is my contention that we are increasingly moving towards the post-democratic pole.

—  Crouch, Colin (2000) Coping with Post-democracy. London: Fabian Society: 1-2.