WikiLeaks and the Limits of Representative Democracy and Transnational Democratisation

  • Steven Slaughter


Since late 2006 the WikiLeaks campaign established by Julian Assange has publicly released large amounts of confidential government and corporate information via the internet. This campaign represents a form of journalism and transnational activism which asserts that citizens currently do not have full access to information for democracy to operate fully and that citizens ought to have access to this information. This campaign also challenges the primacy of representative democracy itself, resting on the implicit and overarching claim by WikiLeaks activists that transnational networks of activism and journalism ought to be where questions of accountability, publicity and transparency are determined rather than by the elected representatives of national governments. The WikiLeaks campaign is a high-profile demonstration of emerging forms of transnational activism and a manifestation of the existence of a transnational civil society and a transnational public sphere which challenges the idea that political issues of accountability are solely matters for national representative democracy. As such, in advancing the claim that contemporary forms of policymaking and governance ought to be more transparent, it is the case that WikiLeaks poses a significant critique of existing forms of governance and representative democracy.


Civil Society Public Sphere Public Engagement Global Governance World Politics 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Assange, J (2006a) ‘Conspiracy as Governance’,, date accessed 12 December 2012.
  2. Assange, J. (2006b) ‘The non linear effects of leaks on unjust systems of governance’, from, date accessed 12 December 2012.
  3. Assange, J. (2011) ‘What’s new about WikiLeaks?’, New Statesman, date accessed 12 December 2012.
  4. Brassett, J. and Smith, W. (2010) ‘Deliberation and Global Civil Society: Agency, Arena, Affect’, Review of International Studies, 36(2): 413–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Castells, M. (2008) ‘The New Public Sphere: Global Civil Society, Communication Networks, and Global Governance’, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 616(1): 78–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chesterman, S. (2011) ‘Wikileaks and the Future of Diplomacy’, Global-is-Asian, Issue 11: 1–4.Google Scholar
  7. Daly, J. (2010) ‘WikiLeaks is delinquent and anti-democratic’, Telegraph, 11 December 2010,, date accessed 13 December 2012.
  8. Dryzek, J. (2006) Deliberative Global Politics: Discourse and Democracy in a Divided World (Cambridge: Polity Press).Google Scholar
  9. Dryzek, J. (2011) ‘Global Democratization: Soup, Society, or System?’ Ethics & International Affairs, 25, no. 2, 211–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dryzek, J. (2012) ‘Global Civil Society: The Progress of Post-Westphalian Politics’, Annual Review of Political Science, 15, 101–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dryzek, J. and Niemeyer, S. (2008) ‘Discursive Representation’, American Political Science Review, 102(4): 481–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Erman, E. (2008) ‘On Goodhart’s Global Democracy: A Critique’, Ethics & International Affairs, 22(4).Google Scholar
  13. Flew, T. and Liu, B. (2011) ‘Globally networked public spheres? The Australian media reaction to WikiLeaks’, Global Media Journal: Australian Edition, 5(1): 1–13.Google Scholar
  14. Furedi, F. (2011) ‘Wikileaks: Recasting betrayal as a democratic virtue’, Spiked Review of Books,, date accessed 12 October 2012.
  15. Giri, S. (2010) ‘Wikileaks beyond Wikileaks’?, Mute,, date accessed 12 January 2013.
  16. Goodhart, M. (2008) ‘Human Rights and Global Democracy’, Ethics and International Affairs, 22(4): 395–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goodin, R. (2010) ‘Global Democracy: In the Beginning’, International Theory (2010), 2(2): 175–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Held, D. (1995) Democracy and the Global Order (Cambridge: Polity Press).Google Scholar
  19. Keane, J. (2009) The Life and Death of Democracy (W.W. Norton: New York).Google Scholar
  20. Keane, J. (2011a) ‘Monitory Democracy’ in Sonia Alonso et al. (eds) The Future of Representative Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  21. Keane, J. (2011b) ‘Democracy in the Age of Google, Facebook and WikiLeaks’, John,, date accessed 18 December 2012.
  22. Keck, M. and Sikkink, K. (1998) Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Cornell: Cornell University Press).Google Scholar
  23. Monk, P. (2011) ‘Hardly the Pentagon Papers of our Era’, The Australian, 3 January,, date accessed 12 December 2012.
  24. Pieterse, J. (2012) ‘Leaking Superpower: WikiLeaks and the Contradictions of Democracy’, Third World Quarterly, 33(10): 1909–1924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Robinson, J. (2012) ‘WikiLeaks, Disclosure, Free Speech and Democracy: New Media and the Fourth Estate’ in More of Less: Democracy and the New Media (Sydney: Future Leaders).Google Scholar
  26. The Economist (2010) ‘Overseeing state secrecy: In defence of WikiLeaks’, Democracy in America Blog, 29 November 2010,, date accessed 12 December12.
  27. Walzer, M. (1995) ‘The Concept of Civil Society’ in Walzer, M. (ed.), Towards a Global Civil Society (Oxford: Berghahn Books).Google Scholar
  28. Zizek, S. (2011) ‘The truth shall set you free, but not this truth’, ABC Religion and Ethics, 25 Feburary,, date accessed 12 December 2012.

Copyright information

© Steven Slaughter 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Slaughter

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations