Below are some choice quotes on “citizen participation” from chapter 8 of The End of the End of History, a recommended book on our recent global political history. I feel like many of us in the participatory technology design space are complicit in these practices to some extent. I continue to grapple with alternative models of mass democratic control over technology.
The Center-Left will propose a range of measures designed to promote “civic engagement” or “community participation.”
Citizens’ summits, juries and panels all aim at participation rather than power, at the technocratic incorporation of the people into politics in order to manage away conflict.
Likewise the popularity of deliberative modes of engagement, deliberative stakeholder events or workshops are characteristic tools of technocratic do-gooders as they create the simulacrum of a democratic process in which people are assembled to provide an ostensibly collective solution to a problem, but decisions lack a binding quality or have already been taken in advance.
Though unable to gain traction at a transnational level, the Left may find some success in municipal politics, following the 2010s example of Barcelona.
Sidestepping […] animus toward Big Tech companies, [tech solutionism (Morozov, 2013) and the ideology of ease (Greenfield, 2017)] may come to be applied to non-market activities, such as solving community problems, perhaps at the level of municipal government.
Sovereign, national politics – which neoliberalism was designed to defang – will remain beyond the grasp of the Left. Progressives will prefer instead to operate at the municipal, the everyday or the supranational level – precisely the arena to which neoliberalism sought to displace politics, to where it could do no harm.Hochuli, A., Hoare, G., & Cunliffe, P. (2021). The End of the End of History. Zero Books.