A small book with great weight and urgency to it, this is both a history of democracy and a clarion call for change.
Not so very long ago, the great battles of democracy were fought
for the right to vote. Now, Van Reybrouck writes, "it's all about
the right to speak, but in essence it's the same battle, the battle
for political emancipation and for democratic participation. We
must decolonize democracy. We must democratize democracy."
"Choosing our rulers by popular vote has failed to deliver true democratic government: that seems to be the verdict of history unfolding before our eyes. Cogently and persuasively, David Van Reybrouck pleads for a return to selection by lot, and outlines a range of well thought out plans for how sortitive democracy might be implemented. With the popular media and the political parties fiercely opposed to it, sortitive democracy will not find it easy to win acceptance. Nonetheless, it may well be an idea whose time has come." --J.M. Coetzee
"In compelling us to subject all our received ideas and deeply held convictions to rigorous scrutiny, this fine iconoclastic work could not be more timely. David Van Reybrouck reveals the startling historical fact that the French and Americans chose the electoral method precisely because it was undemocratic and then goes on relentlessly to demonstrate that far from safeguarding our right to self-determination, elections are actually impeding our democracy." --Karen Armstrong "Van Reybrouck is a skilled polemicist..." --The New York Times Book Review "Mounts a convincing case that we have wrongly conflated democracy with elections." --The Observer (London) "Van Reybrouck wants to revive a system in which government is not just for the people, but really by the people ... a persuasive description of a system designed to be soundly based in popular assent ... A President Trump might focus attention on his views." --The Financial Times (of London) "Very persuasive . . . There are few new big ideas in politics and few answers to the serious challenge faced by democratic politics . . . invigorating and advance[s] a promising practical idea . . . fresh, challenging and uncomplicated." --The Times (London) "A radical remedy to save the essence of democracy, which is diseased and potentially dying.>The provocative title doesn't tell the whole story. As European intellectual Van Reybrouck (Congo: The Epic History of a People, 2014, etc.) argues, what we need is not less democracy but purer democracy. Those who equate democracy with elections, he writes, are wrong. To the contrary, elections are anti-democratic, establishing a political aristocracy that is disconnected from and distrusted by voters. Thus, "it would appear that the fundamental cause of Democratic Fatigue Syndrome lies in the fact that we have all become electoral fundamentalists, despising those elected but venerating elections." If DFS is the rapidly worsening disease, what is the cure? The author carefully builds a historical case for a return to the classic Athenian principles of democracy, in which citizens contributed not by vote but by lot. Those representing the masses in running the government were chosen the way that modern democracies generally choose juries, putting important decisions in the hands of citizens chosen randomly rather than by vote or merit and allowing them to deliberate toward a consensus. A fairly recent inspiration for this proposal comes from the concept of "deliberative democracy" advanced by a Texas academic, who proceeded from the oversized influence that unrepresentative states such as Iowa and New Hampshire have on the presidential selection process to suggest that a smaller, more diverse group be assembled to deliberate, a process that would be more likely to change minds than the polarization we have now. Among those most aghast at such a radical shift have been the political parties and the media, who serve as gatekeepers, as well as others with a vested interest in the status quo. However, "why do we accept the fact that lobbies, think tanks and all kinds of interest groups can influence policy yet hesitate to give a say to ordinary citizens, who are after all what it's all about?" Readers who disagree with the cure may at least recognize the incisiveness of the diagnosis." --Kirkus Reviews