Schuler, D. "New Community networks." , MA: Addison-Wesley, Chapter 4, 1996. http://www.scn.org/ncn/. Link Accessed: 2003-07-22.

Keywords: strong democracy, communtiy networks

Abstract:

Democracy is a tool of the people, a conceptual technology – the equitable participation in the affairs of state at various levels of society – a social endeavor that begins with the individual and extends outward to emcompass society.

Any attempt to strengthen or extend democratic participation must address three dimensions of political alienation (as identified by Goel); political powerlessness, political normlessness and political distrust and cynicism.

Robert Dahl presents five basic criteria that support democratic participation;
Effective participation
Voting equality at decision stage
Enlightened understanding
Control of the agenda
Inclusiveness

In strong democratic discourse, people discuss issues and spawn ideas, build community and develop relationships. People need to feel inspired to participate. People will feel an increase sense of power if they can replace Goel’s three dimensions of political alienation with feelings of hope and confidence. Schuler says that a democratic society has a responsiblity to uphold Robert Dahl’s criteria of developing services that support democratic participation.