The Demarchy Manifesto


The Demarchy Manifesto –
How To Enlighten, Articulate and Give Effect to Public Opinion
By John Burnheim
Societas – £9.95

The Demarchy Manifesto is divided into three, very distinct and compartmentalised sections: ‘Exploring the Problem,’ ‘Suggested Solutions’ and ‘Objections Considered,’ of which its 137 pages (excluding Preface, Appendix 1 and 2) is an altogether forthright read that takes absolutely no political prisoners.

It is what it is – you either agree with it. Or you don’t.

For instance, in the Preface of this compact and most pragmatic of books, John Burnheim writes: ”Democratic theory and practice has been focused on problems of power. It is torn between two objectives, giving power to the people and minimising power over the individual. I accept that our present democratic institutions are a reasonable solution to most of those problems, but they are not a satisfactory way of getting sound policies on many matters” (my italics).

Hmm; a ”reasonable solution to most of those problems/a satisfactory way of getting sound policies on many matters.” At the end of the day – one has to reasonably ask, what is reasonable? Immediately followed by: how does one fundamentally substantiate what is satisfactory?

In the Introduction, the author writes: ”What I call ‘demarchy’ is primarily a process of transferring the initiative in formulating policy options from political parties to councils representative of the people most directly affected by those policies […]. There is no question of constitutional change, no new parties or new laws, no call for a mass conversion of opinion, but a suggestion about how to initiate a change in accepted practice, starting with actions that may seem of little significance in the big picture, but are still justified by their specific purposes. My focus is on how policy is produced and adopted. I am not concerned with questions about the philosophical basis of state power, or human rights, or crime and punishment (again, my italics).

Regardless of what one is writing about, how can one not be concerned with questions of/about human rights?

Ought such a dictum of thought or ideology, actually be allowed to exist?

According to Dickinson McGaw of the American Political Science Review, The Demarchy Manifesto is ”penetrating, subtle and original;” to which I can only respond: with the (possible) exception that this book may be original, it isn’t in the least penetrating.
Let alone subtle.

David Marx


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