Similarities between liquid democracy and Walter Lippman’s criticism of representative democracy

Vladan Lausevic
3 min readApr 9, 2024
Made by DALL-E 3

Recently, I wrote an article about Walter Lippman’s opinions and arguments about democracy. Due to my work with ideas of liquid democracy, I think there are several similarities and patterns between Lippman’s criticism from the 1920s and modern ideas about liquid democracy.

Here are the following examples.

Mixing representative and direct democracy

Liquid democracy is based on integrating and mixing representative democracy (general elections every four years, representatives in parliamentary assemblies) with direct democracy (civic assemblies, initiatives, referendums).

In a liquid democratic system, there is liquid representation since it can change more often than in modern representative democracy. At the same time, direct civic engagement can be done more often and intensively, even in direct democratic systems like Switzerland.

Thereby, liquid democracy enables higher civic engagement and creative actions than today.

Creating and gathering knowledge

Modern representative democracy is often based on political competition between political parties and politicians. Their political communication is based on selective and often opportunistic usage of facts, research, interpretations of social reality, etc.

One core part of liquid democracy is that more knowledge can be created and “mobilized,” where experts and more educated individuals can cooperate and integrate their knowledge, wisdom, and insights. Thereby, liquid democracy favors cooperation over competition while allowing voters to choose their delegates or even delegations consisting of teams.

Lippman argued that academics and experts should be more critical in decision-making and policy-making. A liquid democratic system becomes more accessible and more engaging to voters, who can get more knowledge from different experts.

As a Swedish proverb says — nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.

Co-creation and complex understanding of reality

One of Lippman’s main points in criticizing democracy was that humans generally are bad at understanding our social world and reality. This is due to different reasons, such as our social status, educational background, political views, etc.

In a liquid democratic system, interpretations of reality and our relations to the social world can be more co-created by merging and integrating different values, perspectives, experiences, etc. Public debate becomes more diverse, accurate, and cohesive, including when it comes to how the media functions and the possibility of co-creating the presentation of information.

Liquid democracy is less about voting and more about creating and doing. The practical action process demands a social and community-driven discussion of ideas and reality so that humans can create deeper agreements with each other and achieve desired results without populist, hateful, and uncivilized behaviors.

An additional factor is that “mobilizing” knowledge makes it easier to manage complexity, including global-level problems and challenges.

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Vladan Lausevic

I am active as a social and policy entrepreneur. SEEDS ambassador. Motto: I have no identity, I have only identities.