1st Edition

The Future of Self-Governing, Thriving Democracies Democratic Innovations By, With and For the People

By Brigitte Geissel Copyright 2023
    252 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    252 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers a new approach for the future of democracy by advocating to give citizens the power to deliberate and to decide how to govern themselves.

    Innovatively building on and integrating components of representative, deliberative and participatory theories of democracy with empirical findings, the book provides practices and procedures that support communities of all sizes to develop their own visions of democracy. It revitalizes and reinfuses the ‘democratic spirit’ going back to the roots of democracy as an endeavor by, with and for the people, and should inspire us in our search for the democracy we want to live in.

    This book is of key interest to scholars and students in democracy, democratic innovations, deliberation, civic education and governance and further for policy-makers, civil society groups and activists. It encourages us to reshape democracy based on citizens’ perspectives, aspirations and preferences.


    Part A: Principles of self-governing

    1. Citizens decide on how they govern themselves

    2. Citizens monitor continuous adaption

    3. Citizens’ will-formation is tightly connected to decision-making

    Part B: Why existing democracies fail to realize self-governing

    4. Citizens’ preferences and competencies

    5. No established practice suffices to realizing self-governing

    6. No existing experiment suffices to realizing self-governing

    Part C: Thriving Democracies: Visionary setups for realizing self-governing

    7. Practices for will-formation and decision-making

    8. Procedures connecting will-formation and decision-making

    9. Novel public agencies and legal norms

    Conclusion: Thriving Democracies—our future


    Brigitte Geissel is Professor of Political Science and Political Sociology and Head of the Research Unit ‘Democratic Innovations’ at Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany.

    A strong account of democracy that places self-governing at its core, Thriving Democracies develops a detailed account of the practices and institutions that can make self-governing work today’s complex, pluralistic societies. Both idealistic and pragmatic, the book is an important step forward in democratic theory for the 21st century.

    Mark E. Warren, University of British Columbia, Canada


    Are you interested in a book that is thoughtful, inspiring, provocative, but at the same time really informative about deliberative and participatory institutions? Thriving democracies is the book! A language far from academicism and a text full of clarifying graphs, real examples and applications to difficult political problems make it a really enjoyable reading.

    Far from abstract political theory, but also willing to go beyond existing realities and pure empirism, Thriving Democracies is an inspiring book for activists, participation practitioners, students, academics or (brave) politicians alike.

    Joan Font, Institute for Advanced Social Studies (IESA-CSIC), Cordoba, Spain


    Modern governments have become a tiny one-way street leading from government to the people. This street needs to be renovated and reconstructed into a multiple lane highway going in both directions. Dr. Brigitte Geissel, political scientist extraordinaire tells us where and how to build!

    Rhonda Lee Kammer, freelance lecturer, Weston, USA


    Anyone who cares about democracy should read this book. Driven by a strong belief in the power of citizens and communities and based on a thorough analysis of the academic literature, Brigitte Geissel develops a convincing argument for renewing democracies. She also makes several practical suggestions that communities can adapt to their own needs.

    Ank Michels, University of Utrecht, Netherlands


    Imagine a democracy that is entirely citizen-driven, in which citizens decide how they wish to govern themselves; a democracy that is continuously adapting; a democracy whose decisions reflect the will of its citizens. In this fascinating study, Brigitte Geissel not only imagines it, she also shows how someday we might achieve it.

    David Farrell, University College Dublin


    Brigitte Geissel not only lays out the case for self-governing communities, but offers an extensive menu of institutional options for how citizens might collectively construct their own "Thriving Democracies". This is highly ambitious territory that Geissel is unafraid to explore in the hope of inspiring much needed democratic restructuring.

    Graham Smith, Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD), University of Westminster, UK


    Brigitte Geissel has issued a powerful call to reimagine the democracies we want to live in and to enable communities to develop their own vision for self-governing. She has performed the rare feat of advancing the field in democracy research while remaining accessible for communities and activists. Highly recommended.

    Jane Suiter, Dublin City University, Ireland


    In her thought-provoking book, Brigitte Geissel puts forward radical proposals for popular self-government in a vibrant democracy. By reviewing and assessing a broad range of participatory practices, the book provides many innovative but practicable ideas for democratic renewal.

    Maija Setälä, professor, University of Turku


    Brigitte Geissel has more than three decades of experience researching, teaching, and thinking on democracy building. Far from frequent ethnocentric views, in The Future of Self-Governing, Thriving Democracies her aim is to encourage communities to rethink their democracies, because there is no one-size-fits-all model. It is a must read in times of democratic upheaval.

    Yanina Welp, Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, Zurich, Switzerland


    This is a wonderful and thought-provoking book. Brigitte Geissel is a true defender of democracy as self-government. Her emphasis on the need for citizens and communities to decide how they want to govern themselves, together with a thorough evaluation of democratic innovations, is much needed in times when democracy is under threat.

    Kimmo Grönlund, Abo Akademi: The Future of Democracy – Center of Excellence, Finland