menu

Too Much Democracy in All the Wrong Places: Toward a Grammar of Participation

January 19, 2017 by Christopher M. Kelty

Access this Publication
Participation is a concept and practice that governs many aspects of new media and new publics. There are a wide range of attempts to create more of it and a surprising lack of theorization. In this paper I attempt to present a “grammar” of participation by looking at three cases where participation has been central in the contemporary moment of new, social media and the Internet as well as in the past, stretching back to the 1930s: citizen participation in public administration, workplace participation, and participatory international development. Across these three cases I demonstrate that the grammar of participation shifts from a language of normative enthusiasm to one of critiques of co-optation and bureaucratization and back again. I suggest that this perpetually aspirational logic results in the problem of “too much democracy in all the wrong places.”