Participatory Governance

Anthropocene Campus, ©Sera Cakal

Statements by Stella Veciana (artistic researcher, Federation of German Scientists, Berlin), Arno Brandlhuber (architect, Berlin), Christoffer Brick (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, Berlin). Discussion moderated by Marco Armiero.

Many seem to share the opinion that for a soft landing into the Anthropocene, any response taken to the crises at hand must be legitimized through democratic procedures of power. This is, no doubt, a huge challenge, if only departing from the crisis of democracy itself: how can a concept, originally developed within the operational context of a localized city-state, be translated to scales that contain multiple geographies and subjectivities, that is, to the world? The concept of “power of, by, and for the people” not only challenges and is challenged by an extended notion of agency, it also stands in contrast to “history as usual” and the principles governing our present societies – that is, the tendency for social organization to quickly escalate into states of emergency under external pressure, as well as the inherent “dissipative tendency” of democracy to be overwritten by the technocratic constitution of expert societies.

A truly civic society resting on broad participation, commitment, interest, and active involvement is rare. Who participates and who delegates participation? What is the role of leadership? Who takes responsibility for decisions? How can we re-address notions near and dear to the ideals set forth by democratic values – participation, engagement, consensus – to take into account multilayered processes and variably distributed stakeholders? Do we need different models of governance, must we tap into other non-political orders of alliance, affinity, and relationality?

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