4.15 Democracy in practice

In this chapter, democracy has been treated both as a cultural value and a method of decision-making. As a cultural value, we mean that the opportunity to participate in decision-making is valued. As a method of decision-making, we mean that the opportunity to participate in decision-making exists. These broad definitions of democracy as a cultural value and as a form of government permit a wide range of practices. These correspond to the likelihood that actual practices will vary widely within green social democratic societies and depend, to some extent, on the level of government.

Considerations in arriving at an appropriate democratic practice include achieving a balance between

  • maximizing the quality of the decisions made,
  • increasing the likelihood that decisions once made will be carried out, and
  • minimizing the time and material resources required to make decisions.

Factors that might influence the quality of decisions include

  • the number, experience and education of people whose talents are brought to bear on the decisions,
  • the level of knowledge available and considered when making the decisions, and
  • the care taken in the decision-making deliberation.

Factors related to the decision-making process that may increase the likelihood that decisions once made will be carried out include

  • participation in the decision-making process,
  • confidence in the decision-making process, and
  • for those who have not participated beyond voting for representatives, confidence in those who have been elected, including assurance that one's own experience and interests have been fairly and ably represented.

Each of the factors that improve the quality of the decisions made and the likelihood that they will be acted upon favorably require time and resources, hence the need for finding a balance. This determination is likely to be different for democratic decision-making within a work collective or a neighborhood and one made at the level of an international governing body. For example, the method of representative democracy is more likely to be used at the international level, whereas something closer to direct participation by all is more likely to occur in a work collective. This suggests that one way of strengthening democratic practice at all levels is to establish formal links between the levels, from bottom to top.

Whatever forms of democracy are established at a given level, there is the related issue of the scope of each government, that is, what matters fall within its decision-making authority. With regard to scope, it seems reasonable to consider boundaries on the range of issues that a given level of governance might consider, particularly the international level. The United Nations, for example, needs to have the authority and means to protect the interest of all peoples to a healthy commons and a world without armed conflicts.

Beyond matters that require global solutions, responsibility to govern should be left at the lowest level at which a particular issue or problem can be effectively handled. This constraint would encourage more direct participation in the democratic process, particularly at the local level, likely strengthening democracy at all levels and producing better results.

In practice, the process of strengthening democracy globally is likely to depend on actions taken at the national level. The final stage in a global democratic transformation could then coincide with the dismantling by the victorious green social democrats of the last national military-industrial complex and the bringing under democratic control of the last transnational corporations based on their territories. Imagine how that would impact the composition, nature and activity of international governing bodies such as the UN Security Council and General Assembly, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund! They would then, at last, be able to carry out the promise their existence has signified, that is a just, sustainable global society.


This website was launched September 1, 2010 in support of a green social democratic alternative to neoliberal capitalist policy and practice. The primary result is a work by Charles and Karen McFadden of seven chapters, grouped under the title, Towards a Green Social Democratic Alternative to Capitalism available here in pdf and html formats.

Below under the heading What’s New can be found the most recent materials posted on this website, including opinion pieces, book reviews, articles and selections from the 2017 edition of the main work.  For the interest of new and returning visitors, new materials will be included quarterly.

What's New


Authors' Preface

1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

6.0 The socialism we need against the "socialism" of the 20th century

6.8 Additional concerns about 20th century variants of "socialism"

6.9 The people united!

7.1 Policy alternatives and political movements to advance them


Charles and Karen McFadden, Is revolutionary transformation on the agenda

Charles and Karen McFaddenHumanity on the Brink

Charles and Karen McFaddenMovements of Resistance to Movements for System Change

Charles McFaddenTranslating Green Principles into Education Policy and Practice

Charles and Karen McFadden, The Role of Revolutionaries in the Labor Movement


Charles and Karen McFadden, “The Shape of Water” as an Antidote to the Age of Trump 

Charles McFadden, Decolonizing the U.S. & Canada: The People United for a More Just Sustainable Future

Karen and Charles McFaddenCan emergent early 21st century neo-fascism be defeated without coming to grips with late 20th century restructuring of capitalism into a global system

Karen and Charles McFaddenA Dominant Capitalism or a Sustainable Environment? Why we can't have both.


William I. RobinsonThe Crisis of Global Capitalism and Trump's March to War

William I. RobinsonTrumpism, 21st Century Fascism, and the Dictatorship of the Transnational Capitalist Class


George HewisonWINNIPEG 1919 & THE COLD WAR

George HewisonArt Manuel - "Unsettling Canada

George HewisonThe NDP and LEAP


Albert Einstein, David Swanson, Jill Stein, Chris Hedges, William I. Robinson, and others Selected articles for Winter 2018



1.7 The dynamics of capitalism as a system and the limits of single issue reforms

2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

3.1 The challenge of a moribund economic system

3.7 Public banking: A cornerstone of a green social democracy

4.7 Economics and culture

6.5 Using the non-market economy as an opportunity to begin moving beyond capitalism


1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

2.0 Theoretical Perspective: Defining Green Social Democracy

2.5. Socialism and green social democracy in historical materialist theory

4.3 Culture in historical perspective

5.1 Contrasting a green social democratic world with the currently prevailing, but challenged neo-liberal one

6.2 Socialism and capitalism as coexisting social systems


2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

5.7 Defeating neo-liberal capitalism: The role of social movements

7.3 Justice: Creating a just society, based on the right of all to a dignified, secure existence

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) applies to all work posted on this website except that which appears with authors whose last name is other than McFadden, in which case standard copyright should be assumed to apply.