Grassroots democracy: a political and philosophical analysis

Canadian political philosopher James Tully distinguishes two forms of democratic activity: ‘restrictive’ and ‘extensive’ democracy (‘Democracy and Globalisation: A Defeasible Sketch’ (2001)). ‘Restrictive democracy’ refers to ‘the mature and predominant practices of government and democracy typical of representative democratic nation-states’ (Tully, 2001, 38). ‘Extensive democracy’ refers to non- or differently representative practices of collective resistance that, according to Tully, ‘cannot be understood adequately in terms of the theories and traditions of representative government’ (Tully, 2001, 39). Modern political philosophy, in its focus on reasons, norms and abstract principles, mostly overlooks extensive democracy, which takes place ‘beneath the threshold of the formal features of law and democracy’ (Tully, 2001, 53). This enables philosophers to preserve a clear distinction between political and social philosophy, yet at the expense of obscuring the social processes at the basis of the political as such. [Read more…]