"Extreme democracy" is a political philosophy of the information era that
puts people in charge of the entire political process. It suggests a
deliberative process that places total confidence in the people, opening the
policy-making process to many centers of power through deeply networked
coalitions that can be organized around local, national and international
issues. The choice of the word "extreme" reflects the lessons of the extreme
programming movement in technology that has allowed small teams to make
rapid progress on complex projects through concentrated projects that yield
results far greater than previous labor-intensive programming practices.
Extreme democracy emphasizes the importance of tools designed to break down
barriers to collaboration and access to power, acknowledging that political
realities can be altered by building on rapidly advancing generations of
technology and that human organizations are transformed by new political
expectations and practices made possible by technology.
Extreme democracy is not direct democracy, which assumes all people must be
involved in every decision in order for the process to be just and
democratic. Direct democracy is inefficient, regardless of the tools
available to voters, because it creates as many, if not more, opportunities
for obstruction of social decisions as a representative democracy. Rather,
we assume that every debate one feels is important will be open to
participation; that governance is not the realm of specialists and that
activism is a critical popular element in making a just society.
Extreme democracy can exist alongside and through co-evolution with the
representative systems in place today; it changes the nature of
representation, as the introduction of sophisticated networked applications
have reinvented the corporate decision-making process. Rather than debate
how involved a citizen should be or fret over the lack of involvement among
citizens of advanced democracies, the extreme democracy model focuses on the
act of participation and assumes that anyone in a democracy is free to act
politically. If individuals are constrained from action, they are not free,
not citizens but subjects.
The basic unit of organization in an extreme democracy is the activist, a
citizen engaged with an issue of concern about which they are willing to
invest their time and effort to evolve relevant policy, whether at the
local, state, national or international level. They engage their fellow
citizens seeking support rather than demanding it at the point of a gun.
Small groups of activists have changed the world repeatedly and at every
stage in history. Martin Luther was an ecclesiastical political activist and
Martin Luther King was a civil rights activist. Gandhi was a political
activist, just like Benjamin Franklin and Nelson Mandela, though Franklin
finally advocated a violent break with England and Mandela laid his guns
down before he successfully ousted the apartheid government of South Africa.