The End of Representative Politics
April 2015, Polity
Representative politics is in crisis. Trust in politicians is at an all-time low. Fewer people are voting or joining political parties, and our interest in parliamentary politics is declining fast. Even oppositional and radical parties that should be benefitting from public disenchantment with politics are suffering.
But different forms of political activity are emerging to
replace representative politics: instant politics, direct action,
insurgent politics. We are leaving behind traditional
representation, and moving towards a politics without
representatives. In this provocative new book, Simon Tormey
explores the changes that are underway, drawing on a rich range of
examples from the Arab Spring to the Indignados uprising in Spain,
street protests in Brazil and Turkey to the emergence of new
initiatives such as Anonymous and Occupy.
Tormey argues that the easy assumptions that informed our thinking about the nature and role of parties, and ‘party based democracy’ have to be rethought. We are entering a period of fast politics, evanescent politics, a politics of the street, of the squares, of micro-parties, pop-up parties, and demonstrations. This may well be the end of representative politics as we know it, but an exciting new era of political engagement is just beginning.
1 Contours of a 'Crisis' 15
2 Locating 'Representative Politics' 37
3 Are We Becoming Unrepresentable? 59
4 Is the Party Over? 83
5 Citizens against Representation 105
6 Democracy after Representation 125
Spirited and clearly written, Tormey's searching interrogation of political representation as we've come to know it is sharp, provocative and compelling. Drawing widely on history, theory and contemporary developments, it will bring a new vibrancy to current debates on democracy's potential futures.
Michael Saward, University of Warwick
Timely, provocative and rigorous too. Tormey has produced an important resource for all who share the hunch that far from politics being dead, a new kind of politics is being born and with it a more pervasive democracy for which we all have responsibility.
Hilary Wainwright, author of Reclaim the State: Experiments in Popular Democracy, and a founding editor of Red Pepper.