Inclusive Democracy


Inclusive Democracy (ID) is a project that aims for direct democracy; economic democracy in a stateless, moneyless and marketless economy; self-management (democracy in the social realm); and ecological democracy.

The theoretical project of Inclusive Democracy—as distinguished from the political project on which the ID movement is based—emerged from the work of Greek-born political philosopher, economist, activist and former academic Takis Fotopoulos, in the book Towards An Inclusive Democracy, and was further developed by him and other writers in the journal Democracy & Nature and its successor The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, an electronic journal published by the International Network for Inclusive Democracy.[1] In other words, the theoretical project of ID is a project emerging in Political Philosophy about social change (see e.g. Marxism, Social Ecology project, the autonomy project, the Inclusive Democracy project, etc.). On the other hand, the political project of ID (as any political project for social emancipation) is a project emerging in the History of social struggle (e.g. along socialist movement, autonomist movement, classical (direct) democracy movement, etc.).

According to Arran Gare, Towards an Inclusive Democracy "offers a powerful new interpretation of the history and destructive dynamics of the market and provides an inspiring new vision of the future in place of both neo-liberalism and existing forms of socialism".[2] David Freeman argues that Fotopoulos' approach in that book "is not openly anarchism, yet anarchism seems the formal category within which he works, given his commitment to direct democracy, municipalism and abolition of state, money and market economy".[3]

Conception of Inclusive Democracy

Fotopoulos describes Inclusive Democracy as "a new conception of democracy, which, using as a starting point the classical definition of it, expresses democracy in terms of direct political democracy, economic democracy (beyond the confines of the market economy and state planning), as well as democracy in the social realm and ecological democracy. In short, inclusive democracy is a form of social organisation which re-integrates society with economy, polity and nature. The concept of inclusive democracy is derived from a synthesis of two major historical traditions, the classical democratic and the socialist, although it also encompasses radical green, feminist, and liberation movements in the South".[4]

The starting point of the ID project is that the world, at the beginning of the new millennium, faces a multi-dimensional crisis (economic, ecological, social, cultural and political), which is shown to be caused by the concentration of power in the hands of various elites. This is interpreted to be the outcome of the establishment, in the last few centuries, of the system of market economy (in the Polanyian sense),[5] Representative democracy, and the related forms of hierarchical structure. Therefore, an inclusive democracy is seen not simply as a utopia, but perhaps as the only way out of the crisis, based on the equal distribution of power at all levels.

In this conception of democracy, the public realm includes not just the political realm, as is usual the practice in the republican or democratic project (Hannah Arendt, Cornelius Castoriadis, Murray Bookchin et al.),[6][7] but also the economic, 'social' and ecological realms. The political realm is the sphere of political decision-making, the area in which political power is exercised. The economic realm is the sphere of economic decision-making, the area in which economic power is exercised with respect to the broad economic choices that any scarcity society has to make. The social realm is the sphere of decision-making in the workplace, the education place and any other economic or cultural institution which is a constituent element of a democratic society. The public realm could be extended to include the "ecological realm", which may be defined as the sphere of the relations between society and nature. Therefore, the public realm, in contrast to the private realm, includes any area of human activity in which decisions can be made collectively and democratically.

According to these four realms, we may distinguish between four main constituent elements of an inclusive democracy: the political, the economic, 'democracy in the social realm' and the ecological. The first three elements form the institutional framework, which aims at the equal distribution of political, economic and social power respectively. In this sense, these elements define a system, which aims at the effective elimination of the domination of human being over human being. Similarly, ecological democracy is defined as the institutional framework, which aims to eliminate any human attempt to dominate the natural world, in other words, the system, which aims to reintegrate humans and nature.