A Critical Assessment of the Participative Turn


Since the 1990s there has been much debate about the “participatory turn”. Also conceptions and theories of deliberative democracy, as well as extra-parliamentary forms of participation, have become popular. Deliberative democracy has become one of the dominant research paradigms in normative political philosophy. At the same time as the legitimacy and role of political institutions has been seriously shaken and redefined, “new democracy” has become a universal catchword, “a hegemonic referential”.

As this talk has been spreading effectively during the past decades, it is now time to evaluate and analyze it from a critical perspective. The overall aim of the project is to offer a critical evaluation of this discourse of participation in a context, where arenas and institutions for participation have become redefined and resituated. The project sets out to study the new way of discussing democracy and participation, analyzing the characteristics of this talk, looking at where the talk emanates from and where it is talked, whether it is successfully or less successfully implemented and what kinds of conflicting interpretations it gets.

The project elaborates something that has been hitherto lacking in the vivid field of research: a comprehensive and critical account of the discussion on new democracy. We explore the various key elements that constitute this form of talking: the theories, the concepts, the forms and arenas, and the implementation as well as citizens’ experiences of new participation. We explore the practices of this discourse both in governmental programs as well as from the perspective of actors.