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The Participant: A Century of Participation in Four Stories

Christopher M. Kelty


The Participant is an historical ethnography of the concept of participation. It argues that participation is a problem for liberal representative democracy, and provides an account of its centrality to our contemporary understanding of democratic institutions, social arrangements, platforms, algorithms, and infrastructures. Participation has been formatted, proceduralized, scaled-up, and turned into a tool-kit, spread everywhere, and made more effective. At the same time, the core experience of participation has dwindled: the feeling of being an instance of a collective—not a part of a whole ... More

Keywords: participation, contributory autonomy, experience, collectives, tool kits, cooptation, perplexity, development, democracy, forms of life

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2020 Print ISBN-13: 9780226666624
Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020 DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226666938.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Christopher M. Kelty, author
University of California, Los Angeles