Theories and Cases in Participatory DemocracyMichael Menser
Participatory democracy calls for the creation and proliferation of practices and institutions that enable individuals and groups to better determine the conditions in which they act and relate to others. Michael Menser’s timely book We Decide! is arguably the most comprehensive treatment of participatory democracy. He explains the three waves of participatory democracy theory to show that this movement is attentive to the mechanics of contemporary political practices. Menser also outlines “maximal democracy,” his own view of participatory democracy that expands people’s abilities to shape their own lives, reduce inequality, and promote solidarity.
We Decide! draws on liberal, feminist, anarchist, and environmental justice philosophies as well as in-depth case studies of Spanish factory workers, Japanese housewives, and Brazilian socialists to show that participatory democracy actually works. Menser concludes his study by presenting a reconstructed version of the state that is shaped not by corporations but by inclusive communities driven by municipal workers, elected officials, and ordinary citizens working together. In this era of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, the participatory democracy proposed in We Decide! is more significant than ever.
"Michael Menser's We Decide! is a major advance in the ongoing effort to develop a coherent strategy for achieving a democratic world. His work powerfully brings together academic analysis and empirical research ranging from participatory budgeting and worker cooperatives to larger scale democratic economic forms like Mondragon in Spain and consumer co-operative complexes in Japan. Menser challenges us to achieve a much more sophisticated and strategic analysis of how to move forward to democratic systemic change. A must read for the growing number of activists and scholars seeking genuine transformative paths to and through the Trump era and beyond."
—Gar Alperovitz, Co-Founder of the Democracy Collaborative and Co-Chair of its Next System Project, and author of What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution
"We Decide! is an important book on a subject most of us as a society do not know enough about, and do not really understand. Menser provides a thoughtful, comprehensive study that helps us better understand the theory and practice of Participatory Budgeting/Maximal Democracy, and its role in the social-public sphere of the solidarity economy. In exploring all sides of this process of popular co-management, Menser's conclusion is convincing and uplifting: that Participatory Budgeting privileges the needs of users, reducing both political and economic inequality; and enables us to retake the commons."
—Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Professor, Department of Africana Studies, John Jay College, City University of New York; U.S. Co-op Hall of Fame; and author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice
"Menser discusses participatory democracy on theoretical and practical levels.... The book seeks to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of these participatory models.... Unlike other books on the same topic that focus on normative views such as happiness, rights, and freedoms, Menser starts from power and equality. He does not offer a new best social model, despite his preferences for participatory.... Nevertheless, he tries to establish the framework in which these alternative arrangements show better results than other existing models.... Summing Up: Recommended." —Choice
"Menser connects political theory to concrete, actionable global examples across politics, economy, and society—taking into account the very real disparities of power within both public and private spaces.... Menser presents several novel and textured, rich real-world case studies. Creating a coherent canon of both theory and practice is a significant contribution.... The book has implications and rich analysis for both academics and practitioners seeking alternative models to our democratic malaise."
— Political Science Quarterly
Global ethics and international political theory are relatively new fields prompted by the growing interconnections of economies, technologies, societies, cultures, and legal systems that together comprise globalization. The Global Ethics and Politics Series, edited by Carol C. Gould, will feature original authored works and distinctive collections dealing with the contemporary ethical issues that are raised by globalization and by the new democratic forms of global governance that can contribute to the realization of justice and human rights. It will also consider new cross-cultural approaches to ethics and political norms and the conditions for intercultural understanding and conflict resolution in a globalizing world. Within these parameters, the series will include books on such themes as ethical issues regarding globalization; cross-cultural approaches to ethics and human rights; new perspectives on transnational democracy and the use of global governance institutions and international law to address questions of global justice and questions of war and peace.