Radical Democracy and the Internet Ch 1

‘ … a systematic and mutual interrogation of radical democracy and internet practice.’

Chapter 1: Tracing Radical Democracy and the Internet Lincoln Dharlberg and Eugenia Siapera

Pessimistic accounts of the role of the mass media see it as having been captured by powerful conservative interests, increasingly under the influence of neo-liberalism, and increasingly able to marginalise and neutralise oppositional voices. Optimistic accounts of the potential of the internet to give voice and garner alternative political communities have floundered in the colonisation of the online by a liberal-consumer-driven model of politics. The offline hegemony has been transferred online.

E-politics is dominated by a model promoting increased access to ever expanding amounts of information allowing individuals to make strategic choices on political options and express those options on different online platforms. Consumer content = political content.

Old media corporate news sites extend the offerings of individualised information services, attempting to capture the attention of users for their patrons, the advertisers. (5)

See Yahoo, AOL, MSN

The internet is used by governments to replicate their offline services and this is true of local and national government services. So the liberal-consumer model of politics is hegemonic and the internet has done little to change that or offer an online alternative.

But, ‘radical democrats’ still think their is a possiblity that it might do so.

Radical democracy

the type of democracy that signals and ongoing concern with conceptualising and realising equality and liberty’ (7).

Three conceptions dominate debates on radical democracy:

  1. deliberative perspective (Habermas) – political problems can be resolved through the force of the better argument. Political community is based on communicative reason
  2. agonistic perspectives (Chantal Mouffe) – communities are naturally antagonistic – dissent and division are their lifeblood. Power is the exercise of hegemony – ‘the temporary fixing of meaning of social relations’ (9)

    the political project of agonistic democracy is, in these terms, to create a hegemony, an alliance between different struggles that are constructed as equivalent, which can then extend the meaning of equality and liberty to a wider range of social relations (9).

  3. autonomist perspective ((Hardt and Negri) – community is conceive of a pure power (potenza). Potere is the dominating or repressive potenza. Community = multitude. Liberty comes from giving to the multitude its autonomy: equality from the mutually inclusive nature of the multitude.

Four themes are used to integrate the chapters in the book:

  1. Ways in which the internet encourages the development of radical democratic theory
  2. How the internet operates as a) a conduit of communication b) creator of alternative political communities/radical democratic cultures which can challenge dominant political assumptions
  3. How the internet strengthens the voices of marginalised, alternative, oppressed groups
  4. The role of social, cultural and economic factors in effecting and affecting the constitution and manifestation of radical democracy on the internet.