Digital Limits of Government: The Failure of E-Democracy

Part of the Public Administration and Information Technology book series


While the Internet is often touted as a revolutionary technology, it might be noted that democratic institutions have witnessed no digital revolution through the Internet. This observation leads this chapter to argue that the field of e-democracy has generally failed to live up to its own reformist rhetoric. It argues that instead of reforming government processes through technology, e-democracy projects have tended to focus either on lowering the costs and increasing the efficiency of existing political processes or on analysing the civic participation that occurs outside of purpose-built e-democracy platforms. The chapter suggests that this lack of attention to the Internet’s potential for systemic change in formal political institutions has little normative impact on the democratization of society and may even re-enforce, rather than challenge, the sociopolitical status quo. Further, it suggests that the current approach of e-democracy risks normalizing the Internet to the norms and expectations of the offline world. To elucidate this argument, this chapter overviews both the general trend of e-democracy projects and criticisms of those projects. Finally, the chapter proposes a more radical vision of e-democracy that, it suggests, would usher a larger potential for democratization. This more radical vision of e-democracy consists of recognizing the attributes of the Internet that transcend the limits of the analogue world and applying these to democracy. Such an approach would open the path for envisaging new political processes and systems, allowing the field of e-democracy to live up to its own rhetoric, and affording society the means to address multiple of the centuries-old problems faced by democracy.


Civic Participation Digital World Radical Vision Participatory Democracy Incremental Development 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GovernmentHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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