Agile Democracy: principles for the age of Monitory Democracy

A gift from heaven – democracy by parachute –
by the Japanese cartoonist Kato Etsuro, 1946

[from Wikipedia:]
The term monitory democracy is introduced in Keane's The Life and Death of Democracy (2009). It claims that from around 1945 democracy entered a new historical phase. 
In the age of ‘monitory democracy’, the language and ideals and institutions of democracy undergo many changes. 
For the first time in its history, democracy has grown familiar to people living within most regions of the earth, regardless of their language, nationality, religion or civilization. 
This process of ‘indigenisation’ helps explain why, again for the first time, there is an explosion of many different understandings of democracy (for many people, especially in poorer countries, it becomes synonymous with justice, electricity, sanitation and other public goods); and why there are references to ‘global democracy’ and much talk of democracy as a universal ideal. 

In the age of monitory democracy, less obviously, there are indications that the theory and practice of democracy are mutating, that its significance is changing because its institutions are being stretched into areas of life in which democracy in any form was previously excluded, or played only a limited role.

Once seen as the rule of the people, by the people and for the people, democracy is viewed more pragmatically, as a vital weapon for guaranteeing political equality against concentrations of publicly unaccountable power. That is what monitory democracy means: the ongoing public scrutiny and public control of decision makers, whether they operate in the field of government or inter-governmental institutions, or within so-called non-governmental or civil society organisations, such as businesses, trade unions, sports associations and charities.

In the age of monitory democracy, in contrast to the earlier eras of assembly democracy and representative democracy in territorial state form, many new mechanisms are mixed and combined with new ways of publicly monitoring and controlling the exercise of power. 
Representative forms of government do not simply wither, or disappear. Elections remain important and representative democracy within the framework of territorial states often survives, and in some countries it even thrives, sometimes (as in Mongolia, Taiwan and South Africa) for the first time ever. 
Efforts to renew representative government are commonplace, as in the civic involvement and clean-up schemes (machizukuri) in Japanese cities such as Yokohama and Kawasaki during the past several decades. But, for a variety of reasons that are related to public pressure and the need to reduce corruption and the abuse of power, conventional representative forms of democracy are coming to be supplemented (and hence complicated) by a variety of democratic innovations that are applied to organisations underneath and beyond governments. 
Others include public integrity mechanisms, congresses, blogging and other new forms of media scrutiny, as well as cross-border parliaments and open methods of co-ordination, of the kind practiced in the European Union. 
These inventions are unique to the age of monitory democracy, and they fundamentally alter both the political geometry and dynamics of democracy. Democracy becomes nothing less but much more than electoral democracy. 
According to Keane, although its future is by no means guaranteed, monitory democracy is the most intricate, complex and dynamic form of democracy, a type of post-electoral democracy that has long-term consequences and disorientating effects upon political parties, parliaments, politicians and governments. 

He concludes that in the age of public monitoring of power, democracy can no longer be seen as a done deal, or as already achieved. Monitory democracy is an unfinished experiment that both thrives on imperfection and requires fresh ways of thinking about democracy’s virtues and its imperfections and failures.

John Keane, The Life and Death of Democracy, London, Simon and Schuster, 2009; translations available.


The simple primitive hierarchical structure of representative democracy is fostering unaccountable power and elites corruption. There is a needed transition toward the networked, horizontal, agile political structure for the XXI c. 

In resonance with the needs of the advanced form of monitory democracy, we have proposed the principles of the Manifesto for Agile Democracy as a framework to help the people to assess if a political system (or an initiative to improve it partly) guarantee political equality against concentrations of publicly unaccountable power. It is not only a concern of monitoring by the people, or transparency, but to avoid that the public policies could be written or modified by representatives. They can only vote for or against the submitted text.

Obviously the current representatives could think the people is not able to write these texts "because they have no expertise", but obviously they are fully wrong.

Agile Democracy is also about educating the people in the same time, for a practical purpose. It is the best guarantee of political equality and stability we can imagine. This is most scary for some people in power, and that's why they will never accept Agile Democracy. But the question is not about what the people in power is afraid of: it is about what the people and the civil society really WANT and how they empower themselves.

2 commentaires:

  1. I just received an email answer from Pr. John Keane (I sent him this link yesterday).
    The netiquette does not allow me to paste his comment but he was enthusiastic about the Agile Democracy initiative. I'm honored.
    Thank you very much for your support!

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wF5FMUtHDM

    Francis Dupuis-Déri