“Democracy exists not only when the democratic requirements of electoral processes are fulfilled, but also when there are a series of relations between citizens and governments that facilitate, encourage, and to a great extent achieve a concurrence between what citizens want their governments to do and governments actually carrying out these wishes.” With these words, Pedro Ibarra Güell hints at the main argument of his book Relational Democracy: namely, that elections alone do not make democracy.

Relational democracy

Instead, Ibarra Güell argues in favor of a greater concurrence or complementarity in everyday relations between citizens and governments. His vision of democracy is one of a broader ongoing dynamic in which elected representatives continue to interact with citizens, not just during electoral processes but throughout their terms of office. And it is in this “relational” dimension that the work seeks to offer a new vision of what makes democracy.

In developing his theory of relational democracy, Ibarra Güell goes on to discuss public participation and deliberation in democracy, social networks, and public spaces (including the media and mobilized groups such as labor unions and social movements), as well as electoral and governmental spaces. In short, he seeks to evaluate how public spaces like these can encourage such concurrence. Finally, by way of a case study, he offers a brief general overview of the extent to which his vision of relational democracy functions in the Basque Autonomous Community.

This book will appeal to students of government, public administration, political theory, and comparative politics, as well as anyone with an interest in how democracy functions (or should function).

For a more detailed study of politics in the Basque Country, see Basque Political Systems, edited by Pedro Ibarra and Xabier Irujo.