I recall studying the Enlightenment in West European history and being fascinated by Diderot’s Encyclopédie project. It was an amazing effort and achievement in its own right, but can really only be understood in the broader context of Enlightement goals and values, perhaps best explained by Kant in his essay: ‘An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?”
Kant explains his thesis in an admirably succint manner in the essay’s first line: ‘Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity’. Knowledge and reason can allow us to take greater control of our own individual and collective destiny – rather than remaining passive and fearful. However, one’s capacity to learn is limited by available resources, and the media is often skewed in its presentation of the political world.
That is why Encylopedias are important to humanity – they try to present the ‘facts’ about an issue or event. In modern times, Wikipedia took this a step further by introducing and facilitating crowdsourcing: allowing multiple voluntary contributors and editors to collaborate around individual entries.
So, for anyone interested in the notion of Citizens’ Assemblies – please check out the recently created Wikipedia entry on the topic at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens%27_assembly#Proposed_citizens.27_assemblies .Feel free to moderate, revise or add to the section yourself.
Here is a brief quote about how Citizens’ Assemblies pertain to Irish and UK politics:
‘In Ireland, political reform has become a popular topic since 2008 due to the 2008–2011 Irish financial crisis and also due to accumulating revelations of political corruption. As a means to decide on political reforms, the idea of citizens’ assemblies — and other similar processes — are gaining in popularity.
During the 2011 general election, most of the smaller parties and all of the major political parties that were then represented in parliament included commitments to supporting a process of this kind. Subsequently, the commitment to a constitutional convention was included in the programme of the the new government. Several lobby groups are also campaigning for a citizens’ assembly in Ireland. These include We the Citizens, who hosted a citizens’ assembly in order to demonstrate the merit of citizens’ assemblies in practice, and Second Republic, a grass-roots group who produced a Proposal for an Citizens’ Assembly on Political Reform in Ireland. No decision has yet been made by the government on the form of the constitutional convention.
In the United Kingdom, following a series of public scandals in 2001, a petition campaign has begun to form a people’s jury of 1,000 people to investigate issues around media ownership, the financial sector, MP selections and accountability and other matters.‘