Liquid Democracy and the Futures of Governance

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* Chapter/article: Liquid Democracy and the Futures of Governance. By José Ramos.

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Grundversorgung 2.0 Project, Centre for Digital Cultures, Leuphana Universität, Chapter 11 of the book published by Springer 2016: J. Winter, R. Ono (eds.), The Future Internet, Public Administration and Information Technology 17


Jose Ramos:


"This is a book chapter entitled “Liquid Democracy and the Futures of Governance“, which I published this year in a book edited by Jenifer Winter and Ryota Ono, entitled The Future Internet (Springer).

The chapter is a synthesis of my research in Germany in 2013-2014 on Liquid Democracy, exploring questions regarding the significance of Liquid Democracy in broader transformations in democracy and governance, and exploring the role of web technology in creating fundamentally new potentials for social interaction and decision-making among diverse social actors. A new generation of Web technologies, accompanied by new political cultures, portends an ushering of radical transformations in democratic decision-making. This is a broader theme which I explore in the web blog site

The contribution this chapter makes to the overall literature is in clarifying the significance of such political innovations experiments. In particular how they prefigure two things: new political contracts and new political cultures.


On the back of the in depth research project in Germany (over 50 interviews), the paper is organised as a strait up futures research exposition. I used the Futures Triangle and Integrated Scenarios method of Sohail Inayatullah, and Elina Hiltunen’s weak signals analysis." (


"The governance of our societies and our world is in transition. Far from an endpoint or “End of History,” as Fukuyama presumptuously argued (Fukuyama 1989), the systems (both cultural and structural) by which we govern ourselves and, by exten-sion, the practices of democracy are changing. This transition is multifaceted, involving visions of transformative change, new disruptive technologies, emerging political cultures, and long-standing legacy systems.There is a general global dissatisfaction with political governance that can be described as a “democratic deficit.” A democratic deficit describes a situation where, as common people’s expectations and needs for greater political involvement increase, common people’s real power in relation to their political systems decreases. Recent years have seen the rapid emergence of political movements against oligar-chic power: principally the World Social Forum Process, Los Indignados, the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street, but others which are widespread in over many countries (Ramos 2010). Alongside this, new Web technologies are creating oppor-tunities for experiments and innovations in public and participatory involvement in governmental decision-making, which are changing popular expectations. However, we have seen the continuing trend in the centralization, consolidation, and capture of political power by economic and political elites.We are at a crossroads. Will we live in a world of oligarchs, where a super-rich and powerful class of people governs our planet? Or will the aspirations for distributed participatory decision-making create a world of deep democracy, where citizens have real lateral power in deciding the nature of their worlds? This chapter is organized to thematically clarify the issues and challenges that confront us. In the first section, an overview is given of the critical factors in the add-mix of change, which include disruptive technologies, the legacy of representative democracy and visions for deep and dynamic political participation. In the second section, I intro-duce the concept of “political culture” and “political contract,” two key concepts that are used to articulate the transition from representative democracy to a new approach. In the third section, I use weak signal and emerging issues analysis to posit Liquid Democracy as indicative of a new wave in popular governance. In the last section, I develop several scenarios for the futures of governance and democracy, informed by a discussion concerning the evolving future Internet."

Key Insights

Jose Ramos:

"Some of the key insights from the research and study include the following:

  • We are witnessing a shift from the statist system of representative (republican) democracy that emerged from the enlightenment, toward new (post-republican) possibilities signified by the movements for participatory democracy and the emerging possibilities of the World Wide Web and network-enabled collaboration.
  • Experiments with Liquid Democracy / transitive voting are indicative of this shift, through the experiments conducted through Liquid Feedback and Adhocracy software, and other systems.
  • These experiments highlight the distinction between shallow political participation and deep democracy—and augur both new political cultures and political contracts where they can be enacted.
  • The diversification and fragmentation of existing systems of governance provides the basis for a number of possible future scenarios—with implications for how the state is engaged with governance of shared commons and emerging transnational governance systems, to name a few."

A number of possible scenarios emerged from the study:

  • possible “Liquid Revolution” where online governance has transformed democracy;
  • “Steady-state Oligarchy” where pseudo-representative and oligarchic powers persist;
  • “Partner State” where representative and online variegated governance is blended; and
  • “War of the Worlds” where statist and variegated governance online systems aggressively compete for power."