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Democracy inside: Participatory innovation in unlikely places

Albert W. Dzur, Bowling Green State University

Tue 1 July 2014

11:00am – 12:00pm

Fishbowl, Building 24, University of Canberra


This talk will present a brief overview of research on democratic professionals across the United States who have created power-sharing arrangements in organizations, institutions, and workplaces that are typically hierarchical and non-participatory. Democratic professionals emphasize talk and deliberation but, crucially, they also foster physical proximity between formerly separated individuals, encourage co-ownership of problems previously seen as beyond lay people’s ability or realm of responsibility, and seek out opportunities for collaborative work. Unconventional activists, they are not promoting change via formal political institutions; instead, they are renovating and reconstructing their domains practice-by-practice and are making new kinds of education, justice, and government as a result. Drawing on a friendly critique of major trends in contemporary democratic theory, this talk will focus on the implications of this research for thinking about democratic change, citizen agency, and institutions as fields of action.

About the Speaker

Albert W. Dzur is Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Bowling Green State University. He is the author of Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury (Oxford, 2012), Democratic Professionalism: Citizen Participation and the Reconstruction of Professional Ethics, Identity, and Practice (Penn State, 2008), and articles on democratic theory and citizen participation in journals such as Constellations, Criminal Law and Philosophy, Law and Society Review, Political Theory, and Punishment and Society. Working with the Kettering Foundation on his current book project, Democracy Inside: Participatory Innovation in Unlikely Places, he has interviewed democratic innovators in education, criminal justice, and city government about how they open their institutions to deliberation and participation and sustain such norms and practices amid counter-democratic pressures. Project interviews regularly appear in his “Trench Democracy” series for the Boston Review and “Conversations on Participatory Democracy” for the Good Society journal.

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