Ted Becker (Auburn University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-947-2.ch042
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Up until very recent times in Western political philosophy, theory, science, and discourse, the words predominantly used to describe the democratic pole of Aristotle’s political continuum were direct democracy, indirect democracy, social democracy, and, in Aristotelian terms, republic or representative democracy. The latter half of the 20th century, however, saw dramatic changes in democracy around the world in its spread, variation in form, and in the use of the word. In fact, there have been a number of books in recent years that have discussed a wide array of models or degrees of democracy (Held, 1996; Sartori, 1987). Phrases such as participatory democracy, managed democracy, strong democracy (Barber, 1984), and semidirect democracy (Toffler & Toffler, 1994) are just some of the clusters of terms now used to define particular kinds of democracy that exist or are theorized to be better forms of it. Also, as the 20th century drew toward a close, there was a virtual consensus among Western political scientists that a potentially dangerous schism has grown between the citizens of both representative and social democracies and their governing elites. Indicators of such are public-opinion polls that manifest an increasing discontent with the political class and politicians (usually termed alienation) and a general decline in voter turnout (albeit with occasional upticks). Most of this dissatisfaction with, or alienation from, various forms of representative democracy is considered to be due to the growth of the influence of those who lavish large sums of money on the public’s representatives in these political systems. Another widely perceived cause of this gap between the people and their governments is the inertia of bloated, entrenched bureaucracies and their failure to acknowledge the wishes of the general public in policy implementation. Both of these phenomena seem to be present in all modern, industrialized, representative democracies, and they even seem to become manifest in the youngest, least industrialized countries as well. For example, in the fall of 2004, Cerkez-Robinson (2004) reported that the turnout in the Bosnian national election had fallen precipitously because most Bosnians are tired of repeated fruitless elections. As this complex problem in modern representative democracies seems to have become systemic, a potential technological solution has also come upon the scene. This involves the previously unimaginable proliferation of information and communications technologies of the late 20th century and early 21st century. This new and rich mixture of rapid, electronic, interactive communications has been seen by many political thinkers and actors as an excellent medium by which to close the gap between the people of representative democracies and their elected and administrative officials. This has led to a plethora of new adjectives and letters to prefix the word democracy, each referring to some theoretical or experimentally tested improvement in the present and future forms and practices of both direct and/or indirect democracy using ICTs. Thus, in the past decade or so of reinventing government (Osborne & Gaebler, 1992), we have come to learn of such new ideas and ideals of democracy as electronic democracy (or e-democracy), digital democracy, cyberdemocracy, e-government, and teledemocracy (Becker, 1981; this listing is far from exhaustive.) Taken together, they demonstrate that the future of democracy around the world is in flux, that there is a broadly perceived need by those in and outside government for some changes that will ultimately benefit the general public in various aspects of governance, and that these new technologies are seen by many as part of the solution. As alluded to above, there are numerous experiments and projects along these lines that have been completed, many are in progress, and there are multitudes to come that probably will be a part of any such transformation in the future of democracy on this planet.

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