Re-inventing democracy

Deepening democratic practices
Reflecting on democracy
Redesigning democratic systems
Freeing up democracy
Years before the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the Institute for Social Inventions was running seminars on the theme of the break-up of the former Soviet Union. It was also concerning itself with the inevitability of civil war in the Balkans. It persuaded the Swiss government to host a seminar in Lausanne in 1990 for key politicians and academics from throughout Central and Eastern Europe on the theme of innovative designs for constitutions and electoral systems that could help avert ethnic turmoil. Later the same year, the Institute persuaded the government of Malta and the Council of Europe to co-host a follow-up conference. This was the first occasion at which delegations from emerging nations such as Estonia and Slovenia had received recognition at an official international gathering, and the discussions, particularly concerning Swiss-style decentralist safeguards as a form of protection for ethnic minorities, certainly influenced the delegates, many of whom were in the throes of redesigning their constitutions and electoral systems. The conference launched the East Europe Constitution Design Forum, whereby Western and Eastern experts gathered together in a network to give each other advice and help. This has also launched the Democracy Design Forum, based in Suffolk, UK, which offers the same sort of advice for countries elsewhere, with electoral systems tailored to the needs of Northern Ireland, South Africa and other potential trouble spots. It has also resulted in three key books by the Democracy Design Forum director, David Chapman, published by the Institute.
1. Democracy is an ongoing project. It calls for dialogue, debate and choice. The risk inherent in ignoring the political impact of tomorrow's techniques is that anti-democratic forces will divert them to their own ends or that the general public will end up regarding democracy as an obsolete, ossified concept dating from an earlier epoch.

2. Democratic societies could be described: as having fallen into a moral vacuum through unbridled individualism; as having focused on individual rights to such an extent that it has devalued the sense of responsibility without which communities cannot exist. The symptoms of this sick society stare us in the face everyday: individual crime, greed, corruption, selfishness and violence, and individual rights permitting people to defend the most violent forms of pornography and the most lax gun laws. Clearly, a truly good democratic society depends a great deal on the moral sense of individuals (defined as an intuitive or directly felt belief about how one ought to act when one is free to act voluntarily). So, we need to address lack of morals and lack of community responsibility by pursuing avenues that lead to individual and community-centred moral revival.

Political theories
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies