Yesterday, I published a small opinion piece in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix about the state of Canada's democracy. No matter how you measure it, official democracy in Canada is increasingly limited. The list is long: increasing concentration of power in the Prime Minister's office, the increasing irrelevance of Parliament, muzzling of MPs, ignoring of election laws, shorter campaign periods, falling voter turnout, politicians refusing to take responsibility for their actions, etc. etc. etc. What is more, institutions such as labour unions - institutions that are far more democratic than Parliament - are increasingly attacked by governments in the name of economic efficiency.
Alan Sears and James Cairns have challenged the limitations of official democracy in Canada. In their book on the Democratic Imagination, they explore the concept of democracy from below. According to their book, the authors argue that democracy from below is "about the masses of people engaging in genuine self-rule in all aspects of their life."
According to the authors, democracy from below allows us to examine how we can introduce democratic decision-making into otherwise authoritarian relationships. For instance, the work relationship is not a democratic space. To the contrary, workers submit to the absolute authority of employers. Democracy from below challenges this relationship and asks how we can democratize work. The book is required reading for those interested in democracy and democratic reform.