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What if we selected our leaders by lottery? Democracy by sortition, liberal elections and communist revolutionaries

Shah, Alpa ORCID: 0000-0003-1233-6516 (2021) What if we selected our leaders by lottery? Democracy by sortition, liberal elections and communist revolutionaries. Development and Change, 52 (4). pp. 687-728. ISSN 0012-155X

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Identification Number: 10.1111/dech.12651


What if we selected our leaders by lottery? Zooming out from the mud huts of indigenous communities in the forested hills of eastern India, this article compares three different models of leadership and democracy: liberal electoral democracy; Marxist-Leninist Maoist democracy; and democracy by sortition — the random selection of rotating leaders. The significance of sortition is introduced into discussions of democracy in India (showing connections with practices in Nepal and China) as part of a broader attempt to make scholarship on South Asia more democratic. The author also re-reads ideals of leadership among indigenous people, showing that we need a theoretical and practical vision arguing not for societies without leaders but for societies in which everyone may be a leader. In India, this compels us to push back against the critique of its indigenous communities for not producing leaders and enables a profound re-reading of the history of subaltern anti-colonial rebellions. The final aim of the article is to highlight the virtues of the potential of sortition in creating democratic society globally. How we think about democracy and leadership is thus turned on its head to provide a new vision for the future.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 04 May 2021 16:36
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2023 23:51

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