The leaking roof of the democracy: Challenges of new urban democratic spaces

Today problems arise concerning the legitimacy of the contemporary democratic system. In many countries we see a declining trust in politicians, deepening political disaffection, a decreasing number of members of political parties, dissatisfaction about referenda, and rise of populism. In this respect, Van Reybrouck (2013) speaks about the leaking roof of democracy.

Apart from the crisis in the representative democracy, alternatives are sought in what might be called e.g. participatory democracy, do democracy, deliberative democracy, deepening democracy, and grassroots democracy. Many are searching for alternative ways of involving organized and non-organized citizens in urban governing processes, sharing arrangements, commoning practices, co-creation, or Do-It-Yourself activities. Participants in such experiments often seek for consensus or common ground. Especially a common ground looks promising for bridging participants with diverse backgrounds and potentially for bridging the gap between (semi)government and the living world of citizens. Moreover, safe (in-between) spaces are required to enable experimentation with alternative forms of democracy. In such in-between spaces narratives can be exchanged, and new bonds between people can develop without being harassed by predetermined prejudices.

Topics of interests may include (but are not limited to):

  • Experiences with participatory approaches such as participatory budgeting, sharing and commoning practices
  • Deliberative approaches as used in citizen summits and small publics
  • Urban commons with an environmental and social sustainability focus
  • Inclusion and exclusion mechanism in alternative democracy
  • Designing of new creative democratic institutions
  • The role of academics in creating innovative forms of democracy

Comparative perspectives will be much appreciated.

Peer Smets, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Olga Sezneva, University of Amsterdam and European University at St. Petersburg

Marloes Vlind, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam