Leetocracy. Networked Political Activism and the Continuation of Elitism in Competitive Democracy

Nils Gustafsson, Yana Breindl

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Abstract

This chapter critically examines the role of networked advocacy groups in the policy making process of intellectual property rights reform. Through analysing the case of la Quadrature du Net, we question the assumption that political intermediaries or elites are dissappearing, leaving space for a more inclusive, direct democracy in which decision-makers interact more directly with citizens. Next to established political actors such as political parties or trade unions, which are integrating Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) into their working practices, internet-based actors are emerging in a wide range of political areas (Chadwick, 2006).

Such forms of networked political organisations are usually perceived as less hierarchical than traditional mobilizing groups such as political parties, trade unions and other voluntary organizations (Norris, 2002; Dalton, 2008). This development is often interpreted by techno-optimists as a way out of the iron law of oligarchy in traditional politics, offsetting the professionalization of politics and the transfer of political power to technocrats and anonymous international political actors far away from democratic accountability, thus preparing the ground for a more inclusive grassroots-oriented democracy.

However, we argue that intermediary elites still exist. Our discussion will show that internet-based activism constitutes new types of elites in competitive democracy, whose effective forms are heavily dependent on technical and networking skills. Rather than functioning as the base of more egalitarian politics, the growing importance of networked political activism aided by digital media may, on the contrary, create new elites.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNexus. New Intersections in Internet Research
EditorsDaniel Araya, Yana Breindl, Tessa J, Houghton
PublisherPeter Lang Publishing Group
ISBN (Print)978-1-4331-0970-6
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science

Free keywords

  • temporal elites
  • networked activism
  • social media
  • political participation
  • viral politics
  • elite theory
  • transnational advocacy networks

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