[A2k] Democratic revolutions and democracies in crisis

Philippe Aigrain (perso Wanadoo) philippe.aigrain at wanadoo.fr
Thu Feb 24 05:31:06 PST 2011

Comments are flowing on the Arab and Iranian democratic revolutions, of
which we see only the beginning. In a must read interview, Manuel
Castells stated : “the popular uprisings in the Arab world perhaps
constitute the most important Internet-led and facilitated change”.
Beyond the direct role of the Internet and information technology in
these movements, it is the anthropological and social transformations
that make them possible that merit our attention. New types of
individuals are born and grown up, wise, able to expose a political
deceit, to coordinate, to speak to each other beyond social or cultural
boundaries, to quickly adjust their behavior in face of previously unmet
situations. In my opinion, the practices afforded by information
technology and the Internet were key to the birth of these new
capabilities, but their reach is not limited to where they were born.
When one cuts the Internet, one does not stop (or at least not before a
long time) the agency of those whom it empowered.

We knew all this, and nonetheless, our surprise is huge. We are faced
with the contingency of movements whose scale we did not anticipate, and
neither did their originators. Retrospectively, historians will recall
their antecedents and they will one day appear as part of a logical
process, but today, they are in the best sense, events that spring up
unexpectedly. To pay tribute to them, and express the fragile support of
my keyboard, I would like to explore the inspiration that can be drawn
from them by those who try to regenerate established but presently in
crisis democracies. Two precautions are needed. For once, it would be
absurd to confuse the situations of our respective countries: it is by
recognizing their differences that one can build a constructive
exchange. Furthermore, “democracy in crisis” is a tautology. It is the
essence of democracy, because citizens are permanent judges of the
imperfection of its state, to be always in crisis, always imperfect,
and, at best, being reinvented.

More at http://paigrain.debatpublic.net/?p=2884&lang=en

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