Volume III, Number 2, Fall 2007

“The Deweyan Conception of Participatory Democracy” by Emil Visnovsky

Emil Visnovsky is Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Social & Biological Communication of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava. E-mail:

Only by participating in the common intelligence and sharing in the common purpose as it works for the common good can individual human beings realize their true individualities and become truly free.
John Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action

[T]he task of democracy is forever that of creation of a freer and more humane experience in which all share and to which all contribute.
John Dewey, “Creative Democracy—The Task before Us”


Let me start with the two quotations above, and with the following questions: Does democracy give us real control over our lives, or is it just a very effective masquarade? Does our voting really count? Do we actually steer the body politic, or are we merely passengers and spectators? Do we still care about this all, or we are doomed to resignation?

In this paper I am going to discuss one of the central aspects of the Deweyan conception of democracy—namely its participationism. I am not so sure whether “participatory democracy is exactly what the world needs now,” as Judith Green has recently claimed (Green, 63), but I can agree with her that the “participatory democratic ideal is a vital ideal” rather than a “dead dog,” an ideal that deserves our attention in order to “be reframed in the light of the twenty-first century’s new obstacles and new opportunities” (62). And I think that when Richard Rorty, takes the Deweyan meaning of the term “democracy” as a “shorthand for a new conception of what it is to be human—a conception which has no room for obedience to a nonhuman authority, and in which nothing save freely achieved consensus among human beings has any authority at all” (Rorty 1998, 18). In doing so, however, he cannot at the same time see “how participatory democracy is supposed to function” and so “cannot take it seriously” (104) in his critique of American cultural Left. In this respect he has been writing a bit incautiously and impatiently, even though his discontent with the real state of democracy is understandable. We Deweyans know that any kind of democracy is hard and continuous work, and that to lose faith in democracy amounts to losing hope in democracy. Thus I wish to take participatory democracy seriously here.

In the issue of democracy we are confronted with the route between the Scylla of elitism, which treats politics as a matter for professional politicians who alone are competent to rule democratically, and the Charybdis of the tyranny of the public, which takes as natural its right to be involved in political decision making. Both extremes are dangerous. That of professional politics eliminates the participation of those who are also the subject rather than the object of politics. That of the public creates involvement without competency. The former leads to distortion of democracy, the latter to unwise democracy. It is reasonable to think that only an active, engaged citizen who critically examines politics and social life can impose the restraints on bureaucracy, dogmatism, empty conformism, corruption, etc. Participatory democracy is understood as the process of the broadest possible involvement of and meaningful contribution by citizens, not only in political but all other spheres of life as well. To achieve this will involve the realization of a fully participatory culture and society, not merely participatory politics. I do not take the idea of participatory democracy as a single or particular alternative to other conceptions of democracy such as representative or liberal democracy. Rather, I take it as a rich idea which is—or at least can and should be made—compatible with other conceptions.

The Issue of Participatory Democracy in Contexts

Let me continue with a brief outline of the topic of participatory democracy in contexts—historical as well as current, theoretical as well as practical.

Historically,1 even though the idea of participation in social and political life is ancient, the roots of the idea of participatory democracy (without being termed this way2) as a specific conceptis notoriously allied with Jean-Jacques Rousseau who insisted on direct citizen participation despite his acceptance of the idea of social contract. Philosophically his motivation was both to find an effective association of people as well as to preserve their freedom as much as possible. Thus the solution to this problem is the idea of self-government and self-control to the effect that 1) governed and governors are identical, 2) state and civil society are also identical, 3) sovereignty cannot be represented, and 4) government is but an administrative tool. So far, so good, except that such a vision of democracy has from the beginning been seen as hardly attainable even in a technical way, as opposed to the classical liberal model. Thus participatory democracy as a species of a direct democracy has always carried with it a tone of being unrealistic. Even worse, Rousseau in his efforts to solve the problem of social order and avoid anarchy inaugurated his concept of the “general will” which, though ideally created freely in a participative way by all citizens as the expression of their common interest, has become the representation of the body politic, expressing as the interest of a people as a whole, with the authority to “force to freedom” all those dissenting individuals. In virtue of this construction participatory democracy gained the flavor of totalitarian intentions, particularly since Marx and his followers have also been playing with the idea.

However, nothing like totalitarian ills necessarily follow from the healthy philosophical idea of participation as self-government. The evidence is that the classical liberal theory of democracy of the 19th century had also adopted this idea via John Stuart Mill, who had no problem supporting the combination of representative goverment with a limited, direct citizen participation. On the other hand Mill also contributed another traditional “stigma” to participationism, arguing that it is suitable only on a small scale and impossible in society at large. But Mill was the exception among liberal-democratic theorists, and his legacy was later to be eclipsed by what has become the dominant “realist” (or “elitist”) conception of Josef Schumpeter. Since the publication of Schumpeter’s major work Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy in 1942 this school of democratic thought has prevailed in the Western world. For Schumpeter, democracy has become a matter of political and institutional procedure, a method of voting on public officials and making political decisions.3 For such of his followers as Giovanni Sartori and many others, participationism in democracy is dangerously allied with socialism and Leftism, and thus suffers from the deadly sins of, among others, the refusal to respect modern elitism at the expense of supporting mass movements, utopianism, etc.4

In fact, historically participationism has found more fertile soil among Leftist thinkers of various colors, not only among Marxists. So one might think that this is a fully and exclusively Leftist idea which, of course, it is not.5 The critique of the “realist” conception of democracy as purely “formal”, “legalist” and “procedural,” and the search for its alternative is well underway. Thus Oxford professor and mentor of Harold Wilson, George Douglas Howard Cole (1889-1959) with his ideas of industrial democracy and workers’ self-management, is regarded as one of the progenitors of participatory democracy in the 20th century. Further, the “sensational” 1960s expanded and extended democratization “from below” to further walks of life and parts of the world, from student movements (as epitomized by the Port Huron Statement in the USA) to civil rights and peace movements, to the soft anarchism of the “hippies” movement to “socialism with a human face” in Dubcek’s Czechoslovakia—all these epitomized by the slogan “power to the people”. Consequently, the “New Left” has been constituted instigating the full revival—or rather a new beginning—of a theory of participatory democracy. This was inaugurated by the works of of economist and prominent New Left activist Dimitrios Roussopoulos, written with C. George Benello (1970) and the feminist political theorist Carole Pateman (1970), followed by the by no means Leftist Canadian political scientist Crawford Brough Macpherson (1911-1987) in the 70s. Others followed in the 80s, such as Jane Mansbridge (1980), Benjamin Barber (1984), etc. These developments have in the end initiated a succesive convergence of the Left and the Right, of the socialist and liberal traditions in democratic thinking. The main achievements in terms of the concept of participationism may be summarized as follows:

  • The basic idea is self-mastery (as an upgrade of Rousseau’s conception of self-governing order);
  • The dualism of rulers and ruled is to be abandoned;
  • People have the right, and must also be given a real opportunity, to decide on matters that concern and affect their lives;
  • People are free and equal in their access to institutions and decision making in all spheres of life;
  • There is more to democracy than voting which is not the sole, paradigmatic or the most significant democratic activity;
  • Participation breaks down political apathy and civic passivity;
  • Participation leads to consenzus, social responsibility and strong democracy;
  • Participatory democracy is real, and it commands with its own tools, such as referendum, recall, citizen-initiated legislation, etc.;
  • Participatory democracy is not bound to local and small communities since the new technology will allow new ways of global participation (the vision of e-democracy);
  • Participatory society and culture are possible, and are the keys to a better democratic future.

Philosophers and political theorists have gradually come to realize that even if participation is a necessary but far from a sufficient mark of democratic order, without citizens participation there is no democracy—the question is ‘who participates in what and how?’ In one way or another, participation is an aspect of any type of democracy—if it is to be democracy at all. Thus new variations have started to appear since the 1990s, such as “associative” or “associational” democracy (Cohen and Rogers, 1983), the “anticipatory democracy” inspired by the Tofflers, “bioregional democracy” and “green democracy” reflecting an ecological perspective , “semi-direct” and “consensus” democracy, “grassroots democracy”, “workplace democracy”, “inclusive democracy”, even “panocracy” (a rule by all) which goes beyond but shares many principles and ideas of participatory democracy, and above all “deliberative democracy” (sometimes called “discursive democracy”). All these can be seen as the substantiation, refinement and current elaboration of the idea of participation, or as current versions of participatory democracy. Of these the most important is “deliberative democracy,” which differs from “classical” participative democracy merely in that it demands participation via communication and decision-making, while the latter is based on direct participation in social action.6

In practice, the idea of participatory democracy has recently become very high on the European integration agenda. Apart from individual European countries with their different levels of participationism, an all-European consultative body has been established, The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), whose mission is to give “representatives of Europe’s socio-occupational interest groups, and others, a formal platform to express their points of views on EU issues. Its opinions are forwarded to the larger institutions—the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. It thus has a key role to play in the Union’s decision-making process”. The strategy of this body, as expressed by its current President, Mr Dimitris Dimitriadis, is explicitly stated as follows:

We seek to build a Europe with a Human face. A Europe made up by our citizens, fostering personal progress and wealth, innovation, care for the environment and participative democracy. We want a Europe, tailored by our citizen’s needs, beliefs, expectations and entrepreneurial style of thinking. Think and Act, show us the path which meets and satisfies your more profound needs and expectations.

This institution has held a series of conferences on the role and contribution of civil society and participatory democracy since 1999.7 This real movement can be taken as evidence that the idea of participatory democracy can be given more concrete practical expression on a large scale, such as new forms of social and civil dialogue and new partnership opportunities between all those concerned with European governance (see http://www.eesc.europa.eu).8 The new vistas of democracy find new forms of governance and citizenship, new forms and tools of participation via communication, sharing information, and the creation of networks throughout the European community. Flexibility and intelligence are taking place here not only on the micro (local) but also the macro-level (global) in problem solving and integration of community.

John Dewey: Life as Democratic Participation

Let us now turn to the Deweyan conception of participatory democracy itself. Strangely enough, few of the proponents of participatory democracy mentioned above refer to Dewey as one of their sources.9 It seems that Dewey’s place in the tradition has been somehow overlooked and only recently is being fully acknowledged.10 This is a pity, since Dewey was for a long time waiting on the path that the participationist democrats have been searching for. Such a fact might be at least partially explained by Dewey’s stance between Marx and Mill in social and political thought.

Of course, for us pragmatists it is clear that if Dewey had a conception of democracy at all, “participatory” has been the most frequently used label attached to it, even though Dewey himself did not use the term. Since Robert Westbrook has compellingly argued that

[A]mong liberal intellectuals of the twentieth century, Dewey was the most important advocate of participatory democracy, that is, of the belief that democracy as an ethical ideal calls upon men and women to build communities in which the necessary opportunities and resources are available for every individual to realize fully his or her particular capacities and powers through participation in political, social and cultural life (xiv-xv),

there has been some discussion and hesitation among the Deweyans,11 but I can find no decisive argument that this should be otherwise. Of course, Dewey’s theorising had left many questions unanswered (318). However, most recent criticisms, such as those delivered by Talisse (2004, 2006) and MacGilvray (2004), which attempt some innovative ways to develop pragmatist thought but at the same time find some “blindspots” and “pitfalls” in it, are scarcely conclusive. Talisse’s discontent (2003) with Dewey’s concept of democracy as a “way of life,” which he views as “imprecise” and “meaningless,” is surprising since there are several good interpretations of the rich content of this concept available.12 It is far from being just a “slogan”, as occasionally hinted by S. Hook.13 Talisse’s radical objection that the Deweyan conception of democracy is incompatible with pluralism and thus we must reject it, is based on the accurate assumption that it “requires a shared experience”(2006, 7); however, “sharing” and “shared experience” do not necessarily mean either “common” or the “same” content of experience. First, sharing anything does not eliminate plurality of experience.Second, the existence of common interest does not eliminate the plurality of invididual interests, and the common interest itself may be pluralistic (there may be many common interests, not just one). Third, democracy itself as a way of life is also pluralistic—there is not just one way of living democratically, provided we are sufficiently creative, which of course also applies to non-democratic ways of life, which are also many. As Dewey himself put it (LW 1, 346):

Such terms as “general” and “common” need, perhaps, even more careful interpretation… They do not mean a sacrifice of individuality… the submergence of what is distinctive, unique, in different human beings; such submergence would produce an impoverishment of the social whole. The positive import of “common good” is suggested by the idea of sharing, participating—an idea involved in the very idea of community. Sharing a good or value in a way which makes it social in quality is not identical with dividing up a material thing into physical parts. To partake is to take part, to play a role. It is something active, something which engages the desires and aims of each contributing member. Its proper analogue is not physical division but taking part in a game, in conversation, in a drama, in family life. It involves diversification, not sameness and repetition.

However, the claim than Deweyans must reconsider their conception of democracy in terms of more substantial reflection on power issues (Talisse 2006, 5)14 should be taken seriously despite some analyses convincingly showing that Dewey’s was not a naive and simplifying conception of participation, which did not ignore conflicts that may arise within.15 Dewey focused on the positive side of participation, which does not mean an idealization of this process. In Dewey we find a rich and thick conception of democracy. We can agree with Talisse that Deweyan democracy is “_substantive_ rather than thin, deliberative rather than aggregative, deep rather than statist, epistemic rather than procedural, and … experimentalist rather than contemplative (1-2). By Deweyan democracy he understands “a style of substantive democratic theory which emphasizes citizen participation in the shared cooperative undertaking of self-government at all levels of social association” (Talisse 2003, 1). Democracy is a high cultural, moral and spiritual ideal first, and a procedure, a method, a technique second. It is a “way of life” (LW 13, 155) first, and a kind of state second (LW 2, 325). It is a process first, and a state second. It is a value in-itself first, and an instrument second. It is a mode of social organization that “must affect all modes of human associations, the family, the school, industry, religion (ibid.). Deweyan democracy is also “cooperative intelligence” (LW 13, 187).

The spirit of Deweyan democracy is participatory through and through. His idea was “free and active participation in modern social life” (MW 1, 16), “free and deliberate participation” (MW 7, 311) as the only meaningful way of reaching the growth as well as the sense in human life. Participation of the individual in the world is also crucial and vital for her mental and moral development. Participation forms a substantial part of Dewey’s conception of democracy. The purpose of participation in Dewey is twofold: not only the development of community but at the same time the development of the self. Participation is self-government and self-development, a self-realization of human potentialities.

Now, what is participation for Dewey and what is its place in Deweyan democracy? Dewey’s use of the very term “participation” was substantive and wide ranging. One might be tempted to say that he almost “ontologized” it. Here are such several substantial meanings.

First, he applied it to philosophy itself. He argued that it is better

for philosophy to err in active participation in the living struggles and issues of its own age and times than to maintain an immune monastic impeccability, without relevancy and bearing in the generating ideas of its contemporary present (MW 4, 142).

Second, he understood knowledge via participation:

If the living, experiencing being is an intimate participant in the activities of the world to which it belongs, then knowledge is a mode of participation, valuable in the degree in which it is effective. It cannot be the idle view of an unconcerned spectator (MW 9, 347).

Third, psychology similarly cannot get along without it:

Emotion is an indication of intimate participation, in a more or less excited way in some scene of nature or life; it is, so to speak, an attitude or disposition which is a function of objective things (LW 1:292).

Fourth, the same applies to his aesthetics:

For only when an organism shares in the ordered relations of its environment does it secure the stability essential to living. And when the participation comes after a phase of disruption and conflict, it bears within itself the germs of a consummation akin to the esthetic (LW 10:20).

Fifth, education is equally inconceivable without participation: for instance in “Ethical Principles Underlying Education” (EW 5, 60) he wrote that:

Apart from the thought of participation in social life the school has no end nor aim. As long as we confine ourselves to the school as an isolated institution we have no final directing ethical principles, because we have no object or ideal.

Dewey objects to rude individualistic competition, especially “in intellectual and spiritual matters, whose law is co-operation and participation” (EW 5:65).

He also begins his confession in “My Pedagogic Creed” as follows: “I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race”. According to Dewey, “participation in the realities of life” is the ultimate “educative force in the world” (MW 3, 248). Last but not least, participation has a substantive anthropological meaning: “Only by direct active participation in the transactions of living does anyone become familiarly acquainted with other human beings and with “things” which make up the world” (LW 16, 244).

The basic meaning, however, of participation in Dewey is social rather than political. The groundwork for this is his conception of human being as basically social, i. e. participating in various forms in the social life. He wrote: “It is community life, participation in the organized and continuous resources of civilization, which alone enables the individual to realize the high capacities which are latent in him” (EW 5, 378). The very notion of “social” involves “such things as communication, participation, sharing, communion” (MW 15,239).

Anthropologically speaking, democratic participation is an essential part of life itself, of a “truly human way of living” (LW 11, 218), not merely its instrument. It is a voluntary commitment to life within the community, to engagement in social action and interaction for the sake of the creation of the common good. But the fruits of participation are many: social, practical, moral, educational, transformational, and political. And even when it comes to the common good, Dewey’s conception is not identical to that of Rousseau. According to Alan Ryan, Dewey gave some negative answers to “what does participatory democracy look like?” Surely, “it is not to be one-party rule”, neither the dictatorship of the proletariat, nor “the imposition of an elite vision” and “manipulation of the humble many by the sophisticated few” (1995, 311).

What is absolutely clear is that Dewey’s conception of democracy is not a political one, or at least not political in the first order. It is a social, ethical and philosophical conception of democracy. He is not interested in democracy as a form of government and a method of political power. He considers these second-order questions. Politics is a derivation of social life:

Society … means … reciprocal and growing sharing or communication of experience. Organization is subordinate to association. The political state is only one of a number of forms of association, each having its distinctive value. The state is instrumental rather than final (MW 11:349).

Dewey (in Public and Its Problems) also draws further on Jefferson’s idea of democracy as a way of life, not only as a form of government. Here is the definition of democracy he provided late in his life:

The key-note of democracy as a way of life may be expressed, it seems to me, as the necessity for the participation of every mature human being in formation of the values that regulate the living of men together: which is necessary from the standpoint of both the general social welfare and the full development of human beings as individuals (LW 11:217-8).

But even earlier, in Democracy and Education he defined democracy via participation:

A society which makes provision for participation in its good of all its members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of its institutions through interaction of the different forms of associated life is in so far democratic (MW 9, 105).

Based on this, he shows the disastrous consequences of conditions of work and life that do not allow active participation in public issues, be it for economic, political or any other reasons.

Non-participation in the direction of the work done by men and women breeds indifferent, routine, and passive minds (LW 8, 65).

The very fact of exclusion from participation is a subtle form of suppression (LW 11, 218).

Absence of participation tends to produce… lack of effective responsibility (LW 11, 218).

Democracy for Dewey is part of a genuine human way of being, which is the social being. It is the “human condition”. Simply, it is not possible to live as a genuine human being and not to live in a democratic way since it is not possible to live in isolation as an abstract individual. The social being of the individual may be performed in principle in two ways: democraticly, which is the right way, and undemocraticly, which is the wrong and distorted way. Thus Dewey’s term for “participation” is “sharing” (MW 9, 167) and “(mutual) contribution”. This can be understood as the expression of Dewey’s life-long craving for common happiness and unity in the social realm. “Sharing our experience with others” he wrote in Psychology (EW 2, 307), sharing our life with others, is his principle of democracy.

Everything in human life—experience, education, knowledge—is social. When a child is born, “he is not born as a mere spectator of the world; he is born into it. He finds himself encompassed by such relations, and he finds his own being and activity intermeshed with them.” If we take away all of these, i. e. “sharing in these ends and actions, nothing remains” (EW 3, 346). When the infant grows up, he “becomes assimilated to the social activities and aims of his group by sharing, through play and work…. He learns to do by doing, to share by sharing” (MW 6, 426). This sharing is mostly direct, Dewey explains, it is the direct involvement in action which cannot be imitated and replaced by something else.

Thus, for Dewey, the human being is an active participant in being almost in the Heideggerian sense since:

The doctrine of organic development means that the living creature is a part of the world, sharing its vicissitudes and fortunes, and making itself secure in its precarious dependence only as it intellectually identifies itself with the things about it, and, forecasting the future consequences of what is going on, shapes its own activities accordingly. If the living, experiencing being is an intimate participant in the activities of the world to which it belongs, then knowledge is a mode of participation, valuable in the degree in which it is effective. It cannot be the idle view of an unconcerned spectator (MW 9, 347).

Human experience is also through-and-through social and by “social is denoted such things as communication, participation, sharing, communion” (MW 13, 382).

Of course, not every kind of sharing is good in and for itself. Dewey observes on moral issues: “Washing one’s hands of the guilt of others is a way of sharing guilt so far as it encourages in others a vicious way of action” (MW 14, 17). On the other hand, he is more interested in “harmony of social interests” which “is found in the wide-spread sharing of activities significant in themselves, that is to say, at the point of consumption” (MW 14, 187). For “there is no mode of action as fulfilling and as rewarding as is concerted consensus of action. It brings with it the sense of sharing and merging in a whole” (LW 1:145).

Thus, for Dewey, participatory democracy is identical with the idea of community itself:

To extend the range and the fullness of sharing in the intellectual and spiritual resources of the community is the very meaning of the community (MW 2, 93).

The defining or characteristic condition of a group as social is communication, participation, sharing, interpenetration of meanings (MW 15, 239).

Thus democracy signifies that every

[i]ndividual is to share in the duties and rights belonging to control of social affairs, and, on the other side, that social arrangements are to eliminate those external arrangements of status, birth, wealth, sex, etc., which restrict the opportunity of each individual for full development of himself. On the individual side, it takes as the criterion of social organization and of law and government release of the potentialities of individuals. On the social side, it demands cooperation in place of coercion, voluntary sharing in a process of mutual give and take, instead of authority imposed from above (LW 7, 349).

This is also very significant for human happiness:

The integration of the individual and society is impossible except when the individual lives in close association with others in the constant and free give and take of experiences and finds his happiness and growth in processes of sharing with them (LW 11, 205).

Human social life can be defined as democratic participation. Not to participate or not to share, is for Dewey something absolutely strange, even absurd. The problem is rather how to participate so as to create the good.

Sharing or participation is a two-way street. One way, from society to the individual, is necessary as adoption or “consumption“ of what already exists in experience/culture. This is learning. The other way, back from the individual to society, is necessary as the creation or contribution to the common experience/culture. This must all be learned, and although democracy seems a very natural way of life for community, democracy demands education all the way down: “of learning to give and take, is the best possible method of training for membership in the larger society” (MW 5, 521).

This brings us to the following Deweyan claim: before there can be democracy in politics/government/power, there must first be democracy in society/culture/experience. Not in any case vice versa. If there is no democracy in the way of life, there cannot be democracy in the way of power. What there is in such a case is just a mask or masquarade, a camouflage of democracy. Dewey’s concepton of democracy that inherently involves the idea of participation as sharing serves better our thick philosophical purposes than thin political purposes. Those who think that the political can be taken in abstraction from the philosophical, as Rorty apparently does, just mistake bad politics for good politics.

In a political context, freedom without real opportunities for participation is empty and purely formal. Dewey was the resolute supporter of citizen participation; according to him, universal and direct “participation in choice of rulers, is an essential part of political democracy” (MW 10, 138). Self-government through participation is the true democratic vista. Such participation is intelligent, creative, deliberative. Thus, the Deweyan idea of participatory democracy includes at least these three ideas: 1. communication, 2. cooperation, 3. creativity.

Dewey showed the importance and power of the public, which cannot be overlooked as naive masses and laymen, but on the other hand he also built on individuality. In Dewey the public and the individual are not opposites—and this is a unique concept.


Dewey once wrote: “it is true that no other people at any other age has been so permeated with the spirit of sharing as our own” (LW 3, 144). But is this really true? Do we really feel sharing that much?

There is ample evidence that those who thought that the issue of democracy had been solved once and for all in the contemporary world after 1989 were simply fooling themselves. Historically what has happened is the distortion of democracy by power elites to make it just a mechanism for getting to power. Some have even started to speak of the crisis of democracy and of the need to reconstruct it, and look for more creative ways in democratic projects. This applies also to participatory democracy—there is no question concerning the idea of participatory democracy itself. It is no divining rod. It is neither obsolete nor utopian. It is very useful and timely. The question is how to implement democracy. To solve this question requires regaining control over the processes that affect our lives and starting to decide on our own destiny.


1 In my presentation of the “story” of participatory democracy here I draw mostly on Cunningham (2002), Shapiro (2003), Roussopoulos and Benello (2005), and Held (2006).

2 The term itself has been allegedly coined by Arnold S. Kaufman in the 1960s in connection with the student movement in the USA.

3 Democracy is simply “that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote” (Schumpeter 1962:269).

4 Needless to say, this Schumpeterian-Sartorian conception of democracy is the one that has been primarily fostered in Postcommunist Europe including Slovakia after 1898.

5 The rare exception among liberal democrats, who has allowed for participatory democracy, is Robert Dahl, but he himself has moved from the classical liberal-democratic position in his later works from 1970 on.

6 There is even the movement of “participatory politics” (Stephen Rosskamm Shalom, professor of political science at William Paterson University, New Jersey) and “participatory economics” (Robin Hahnel, Professor of Economics at American University, Washington, DC).

7 The conference “Participatory democracy: current situation and opportunities provided by the European Constitution” was held in Brussels, 8 and 9 March, 2004.

8 In addition to the initiatives of this body, there are some others, such as a think tank Notre Europe, founded in 1996 by Jacques Delors, has held the conference “What kind of partipatory democracy for the European Union?” (see http://www.notre-europe.eu). The European Trade Union Confederation held the conference “Towards Participatory Democracy in the European Union” in 2005 (see http://www.etuc.org). Besides these, there is The European Citizens’ Initiative as the the alliance of many civil society organisations, supporters and volunteers which fosters and coordinates activities supporting participatory democracy all over Europe (see http://www.citizens-initiative.eu).

9 Barber (1984) drew explicitly on Dewey. So did recall the leader of American Students for Democratic Society and the author of Port Huron Statement, Tom Hayden in his recollection (2005, 6).

10 See Cunningham (2002, 142-162) who developes Deweyan participationism further to the conception he dubs “democratic pragmatism”. He considers problem solving as the gist of this conception of democracy.

11 See e. g. Posner (2003, 106, 131) and Talisse (2004, 2005, 2006) who classify Dewey as a deliberative democrat.

12 See e. g. Hook (1938); Campbell (1993); Stuhr (1993).

13 See his Introduction to Dewey (LW 17, xxv).

14 See Stuhr (2003, 153-166).

15 See e. g. Bernstein (1998) and Caspary (2000).

Works cited

  • Barber, Benjamin. 1984. Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Bernstein, Richard J. 1985. “Dewey, Democracy: The Task Ahead of Us”. In John Rajchman and Cornel West. Post-Analytic Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 48-58.
  • Bernstein, Richard J. 1998. “Coomunity in the Pragmatic Tradition”. In Dickstein, M. The Revival of Pragmatism. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 141-156.
  • Bessette, Joseph. 1980. “Deliberative Democracy: The Majority Principle in Republican Government,” in How Democractic is the Constitution?, Washington, D.C., AEI Press, 102–116.
  • Campbell, James. 1993. “Democracy as Cooperative Inquiry”. In John Stuhr, ed. Philosophy and the Reconstruction of Culture. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 17-36.
  • Caspary, William. 2000. Dewey on Democracy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Cohen, Joshua, and Joel Rogers. 1983. On Democracy. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  • Cunningham, Frank. 2002. Theories of Democracy. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Dewey, John. The Collected Works of John Dewey, 1882-1953. 1969-1991. The Early Works, 1882-1898 (EW). The Middle Works, 1899-1924 (MW). The Later Works, 1925-1953 (LW). Ed. by Jo Ann Boydston. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Green, Judith. 2004. “Participatory Democracy”. In Journal of Speculative Philosophy 18, 1, 60-71.
  • Hayden, Tom. 2005. The Port Huron Statement: The Vision Call of the 1960s Revolution. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press.
  • Held, David. 2006. Models of Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Hook, Sidney. 2002. “The Democratic Way of Life”. In Sidney Hook on Pragmatism, Democracy, and Freedom. Amherst: Prometheus Books.
  • MacGilvray, Eric. A. 2004. Reconstructing Public Reason. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • Macpherson, C. B. 1973. Democratic Theory: Essays in Retrieval. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Macpherson, C. B. 1977. The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mansbridge, Jane. 1980. Beyond Adversary Democracy. New York: Basic Books.
  • Mansbridge, Jane. 1999. “On the Idea that Participation Makes Better Citizens.” Citizen Competence and Democratic Institutions, Stephen Elkin and Karol Edward Soltan, eds. Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press.
  • Pateman, Carole. 1970. Participation and Democratic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rorty, Richard. 1998. Achieving Our Country. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • Roussopoulos, Dimitrios, and C. George Benello. eds. 2005. Participatory Democracy: Prospects for Democratizing Democracy. Montréal, New York: Black Rose Books.
  • Ryan, Alan. 1995. John Dewey: And the High Tide of American Liberalism. New York: Norton.
  • Schumpeter, Josef. 1962. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.
  • Shapiro, Ian. 2003. The State of Democratic Theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Stuhr, John. 1993. “Democracy as a Way of Life”. In John Stuhr, ed. Philosophy and the Reconstruction of Culture. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 37-58.
  • Stuhr, John. 2003. Pragmatism, Postmodernism, and the Future of Philosophy. New York and London: Routledge.
  • Talisse, Robert B. 2003. “Can democracy be a way of life?” Transactions of the Charles Sanders Peirce Society, Winter 2003, Vol. XXXIX, No 1.
  • Talisse, Robert B. 2004. “Dewey’s Defense of Democracy”. Free Inquiry Oct/Nov 2004, 24, 6, Humanities Module, 35-37.
  • Talisse, Robert B. 2004. Democracy after Liberalism. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Talisse, Robert B. 2005. “Deliberative Democracy Defended: A Deliberativist Response to Posner’s Political Realism,” Res Publica, 11, 185-199.
  • Talisse, Robert. 2006. “Democracy and Power: Why Dewey Can’t Help Us.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott, Loews Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA, 2006-10-05 http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p150782_index.html
  • Westbrook, Robert. 1991. John Dewey and American Democracy. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.