'Hyperdemocracy and Democratic Theory'
The Inaugural Lecture of the SGIA Postgraduate Society given by Dr Stephen Welch.
This paper will outline and explore the idea of ‘hyperdemocracy’ in relation to current trends in democratic theory. Hyperdemocracy is a condition that derives from the application of the idea of ‘reflexive modernization’ to the democratization process. It involves the extension of democratic contestation to areas that were previously insulated from it as its necessary precursors, such as agenda-formation and the construction of expert knowledge. The thesis of hyperdemocracy poses the question of what happens when the processes of democratization reach the constitutive conditions of democracy itself. ‘Ascending’ democratic trajectories as implied by the theory of cognitive mobilization have assumed a limitless expansion of the scope of democracy, and in particular that expanding cognitive capacity is always positively associated with it. The implications of the democratization of knowledge itself have not been explored. Conversely, more pessimistic or ‘parabolic’ democratic trajectories have been put forward under the rubrics of social capital and more recently ‘post-democracy’. These identify the media as principal factors in current developments, but fail to develop a deeper analysis of the role of knowledge and information as constitutive features of democracy, and thus also fail to capture the reflexive, self-undermining character of hyperdemocracy
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