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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 14
System Requirements:

You will need a reliable Internet connection as well as a computer or device with which you can access your virtual class. We recommend you arrive to class 5-10 minutes early to ensure you're able to set up your device and connection.

Class Delivery:

Classes will be held via Zoom.

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this society class:

What is Participatory Democracy? Theory, Activism, and Power

Since its first formulation in the early 1960s, the concept of “participatory democracy” has come to take on multiple meanings—some of them complementary, others conflicting. Promoted by a wide variety of theorists, activists, social movements, and political parties, conceptions of participatory democracy range from deepened civic engagement to procedural reform to the wholesale transformation of the liberal-democratic system. For some, participatory democracy is an organizing ethos, a set of values for building community space that sits outside of, or counter to, prevailing institutions; for others, it’s a definite political project, one aimed at radically reconfiguring the state and reallocating institutional power. What is participatory democracy? What unites, and divides, its various understandings? And, to what extent does it offer a compelling vision of change for a society wracked by social and economic turbulence and the highly unequal distribution of political and economic power?

In this course, we will explore varying conceptions of participatory democracy, asking: if democracy is “the rule of the people,” in what ways can participation shape and affect its dynamics? What are purposes, and limits, of participation itself? What forms can a participatory democracy take? What concept of the people, the demos, undergirds a participatory democratic program? We will read from both classical democratic thinkers, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and J.S. Mill, and contemporary movement theorists, such as Francesca Polletta and Gianpaolo Baiocchi, as we assess the viability of a participatory theory of democracy and the institutional forms a participatory democracy might take. We’ll examine differing conceptions and democratic projects across cultures and geographies, including participatory budgeting, citizens’ assemblies, and anarchist-inspired initiatives. 

Finally, we consider various critiques of participatory democracy. How does it account for hyper-inequalities in wealth and economic power? Is participatory democracy indeed a substantive alternative to conventional liberal democracy, or an intensification of its neoliberal logics? How does participatory democracy fit within a vision of sustained social change?

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

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Refund Policy

Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.

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Reviews of Classes at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (28)

School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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