Quadrant Essay: Party without the people

by ericknight

John Keane, a historian at the University of Sydney, has attempted an ambitious history of democracy called The Life and Death of Democracy. As Keane notes in the book, few have attempted this feat before him. His is a veritable attempt.

One of the most interesting points he makes in the book is that representative democracy is not a static institution. Like the events in Egypt and Libya have demonstrated, the story of democracy around the world is still unfolding.

Near the conclusion, Keane makes an observation which might be read as a critique of modern democracy. The representative model fashioned during the Enlightenment is gradually shifting to what he calls monitory democracy. Monitory democracy is government by interest groups, lobby groups, expert panels, citizens’ assemblies… Anything, in other words, but the delegated authority of MPs.

I have written some thoughts on this in the April edition of Quadrant. It is a dark reflection on what is happening in some corners of Australian politics. To read my essay click here.

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