The Election Machine: Generating Danish Democracy

Anne Kathrine Pihl Vadgaard

Publikation: Bog / Antologi / Rapport / Ph.D.-afhandlingPh.d.-afhandling


When democratic elections run smoothly, the practices that ensure a direct – free and fair – link from the will of the people to those who govern are mostly hidden in the bureaucratic machinery of elections. These administrative aspects of elections are seen as a background to the political deliberation on Election Day, as practicalities and technicalities that provide the political spectacle with a transparent and neutral space. In this thesis I however, make visible how this often hidden electoral apparatus in practice produces an election, which is both transparent, representative, and ends with an uncontested result. The main empirical site for my project has been the engine room of elections: an election office in a Danish municipality, and through a long- term ethnographic fieldwork in Copenhagen Municipality, as they planned the Local Government election in 2013 I have acquired in-depth insights into the bureaucratic practices of planning and executing a Danish election. In my move towards representational practices and democracy, I adapt a framework from STS, which could be coined democracy in action. Paraphrasing the title of Latour’s Science in Action (1987) I enter the world of politics and representational democracy by examining the inner workings of democracy, and as practical achievement for the public administration. In this approach reside at least two claims about democracy. Firstly, in Latourian fashion this thesis argues against the existence of an ahistorical pure form of democracy. Although, the understanding of the Danish deliberative and representational democracy can be traced back to Hal Koch and Alf Ross, the thesis does not take democratic principles as the point of departure, but as a topic for investigation; as practices in their own right and as practices linked to and intertwined with other practices in the public administration. Democracy is thus seen as practically produced and herein resides the second claim in the thesis; that the constructions of democracy are “as social – and material – as anything else” (Mol & Berg 1994). Through techniques and technologies, documenting, ordering and accounting practices, democratic ideals and electoral order emerge and are negotiated. Often considered the hidden, apolitical and mundane work of the political administration or state, these technologies and practices are by no means neutral (Barry 2001). On the contrary, they are generative and provide an epistemological base for modern forms of knowledge, expertise, and governance (Riles 2006).
ForlagIT-Universitetet i København
Antal sider222
ISBN (Trykt) 978-87-7949-344-5
StatusUdgivet - 2016


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