Leif Thomas Olsen
RUNNING NOTES ON THE BOOK : NO ORIGINAL IDEAS FROM ME HERE (yet)
Goes chapter by chapter. Will be cut down hopefully in the future...
Blurb : The Internet holds endless opportunities for exchange and dialogue and the promise of developing a better democratic model. Day-to-day politics are largely driven by economic lobbies in the interest of what Habermas calls their "generalised particularism", the threat to take jobs and tax revenues elsewhere. Citizens’ influence over politicians is twofold: they are asked for their input in elections, referenda, online consultations and surveys, and citizens can initiate issues where they see political action needed. Yet these “participative forces,” including NGOs, street rallies and charities, regularly fail to reach the ears of elected politicians as effectively as those of well-funded corporate lobbies. Also, this type of voluntary engagement often falls short of presenting the kind of reasoned challenges to the incumbents—by the electorate—that Habermas’ communicative action aimed at.
A more powerful model would therefore organise the efforts of the electorate in a way that both generates those reasoned arguments, which, as Habermas quite correctly pointed out differ from mere opinions, and delivers them to the elected politicians in a manner they can neither refuse nor ignore. This is what the Citizen Lobby intends to do.
From Parliamentary democracy to the Citizen Lobby
UN Annual Assembly
Olsen introduces the main concepts of the Citizen Lobby and discusses the shortcomings of democratic systems as they stand today in an Internet Age. in March 2013 the UN held the 128th Annual Assembly and covered "The Use of media, including social media, to enhance citizen engagement and democracy". Clear points were covered across many different methods, or goals to be considered when talking about citizen engagement with the [western] democratic system. A particular focus was on social media and the bridging qualities this has between citizens and their representatives. In this way citizens would not only have a closer relationship with their representative government, but also be able to monitor and contribute directly to the decision making process.
Our current [western] democratic model heavily relies on a lobby. That currently is predominantly controlled by what is considered "corporate citizens" rather than "private citizens". There is a power imbalance between those who can influence governmental actions, and those who cannot. Colin Crouch writes in his book Post-Democracy that current democratic policy development favours economic stability rather than the considerations of its citizens.
Businesses have more actionable/quantifiable losses and gains compared with non-commercial lobbies. A commercially based lobby is far more powerful to invest money into a governmental representative as they can project commercial gain. Likewise they can influence representatives to make policy decisions as there are quantifiable results to the economy which does affect citizens.
Furthermore, the push towards Internet based engagement, is one that also favours the commercial lobby. The concept of "reputation management" in where businesses can voice views and opinions through highly visible, and reputable channels, allows them to engage in policy change through their own citizenship. Where your average blogger, with much the same tools available to them, has far less voice to create change. The access to money and technology, to which the corporate citizen has far better access to "risks hollowing out the democratic aspects of our current political systems". Olsen also points out "that this is not only well known, but also well planned".
Countries with a more recent democratic history also run into the issue of more traditional citizen divides. Political parties that identify on segregating criteria such as racial, religious or tribal clusters, generally favour policy making in consideration to loyalty risks rather than political factors. Euro-Americans consider that this is not a factor in their more developed democracies. However this is absolutely not the case. Where segregation of tribe-like clusters are avoided, other divides are politically identified. Not considering for the moment "anti-immigration" parties, the clusters for developed democracies are those of economic and/or educational basis.
Some of the problems that we face can, to some degree, be resolved with coalitoin style government widely found in South East Asian countries. Citizens feel more represented as there are larger coalitions representing their interests directly. However this segregation can also cause issues as democracy tries to be an inclusive system, incorporating all voters regardless of their "tribe". As mentioned earlier, segregating criteria is making its way into European democracy via anti-immigration parties, and in the US defined by economic segregation, where the right to speculate on fellow citizens' misery (health insurances and foreclosures) is split amongst parties.
While we use a century old system that has only recently been updated in favour of economic interest, we are forever plagued with ever growing structural problems. Serious reflection must be given to finding a solution to these issues, so as to make solely symbolic changes.
The word Glocal comes from the blending of the words Local and Global. It was first used by Japanese rice farmers who needed to adapt rice strains to grow in their local environment, and then later picked up by Japanese business to refer to products tailored to distinct local requirements.
Olsen makes the distinction that local and global are not antonyms of each other relating to space, but rather "represent a range of complementary meanings" and provides us with a table of examples (below).
|Civic space||Public Space|
|Present traditions||Future Trends|
|Here and There||Anywhere|
|Now and Then||Anytime|
Ideas, opinions, trends and /or behaviour that are based on local premises. These can be shared because of cultural belonging, or nationalism, shared by non-locals who emigrated or fled, or a minority equity/belonging of some sort. Lifestyles based on religious affiliation that may establish everyday premises/behaviour that differ from those of neighbours with other faiths - but fall in line with people across the globe who have the same faith.
Some examples of meta-local communities are Diasporas, urban poor, SMEs (< ???) and LGBTQIA.
Influences that lie beyond the interaction of global physical/human/economic.ecological community. Such influences include human relationships to spiritual, eternal or supernatural forces, placing such relationships beyond the concern of the globalisation debate as it is typically delineated (socio-economic development playing out in the physical/human/ecological sphere).
By adding this meta level it becomes possible to engage in glocal interaction without involving these kinds of meta-global concerns in this already complex debate.
An interesting expansion on the idea of meta-local is offered by Richard Gilman-Opalsky who is regularly referenced throughout this chapter (book?).
Indigenous Mayans in Mexico were quite surprised in the 1990s to discover their robust common ground and the profound resonance of their claims with environmentalists, feminists, gays, lesbians, and precarious and rebellious people everywhere - theirs was a commonality of being on the losing side of power, where power is defined by and for capital (Spectacular Capitalism: Guy Debord and the Practice of Radical, 2011, p116)
Then meta-locals include a much wider spread of citizens despite the fact that they are not necessarily inhabiting local space. This then excludes them from having a representation in the ruling majority or system.
The next problem that arises is one of trust. Charles Tilly noted that trust across the world from Europe to younger developing countries, are experiencing a decline in trust in their ruling bodies, and goes to say that places democracy at considerable risk (Encarnacion, 2006, p149). Natalia Pohorila and Yuriy Taran agree with this and open their article entitled High Expectations and Disappointing Reality stating "High expectations of the political elite run parallel with disappointment and distrust of politicians" (2005). This diminishing trust calls for more grass roots action and participation in policy-making. The ratio of Trust : Control is a fine balance that needs to be leveled.
Finally the plight of democracy itself, that of Inclusion. European governments have openly acknowledged that efforts to develop multicultural societies within our current systems have failed. Both Angela Merkel and David Cameron have been recorded accepting this fact (Aljazeera 2010 & 2011). This directly results in further segregation and an already reference failing of cluster politics. Now too there is an increase on political rhetoric that encourages exclusion which further emphasises the need for participative democracy and thus what Olsen is suggesting - the Citizen Lobby.