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This week’s editors


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

To want to be different is now normal

The language of ‘normality’ has defined the contest for the Tory leadership. But its coded power in Conservative politics only reveals the gap between the political culture and the society it rules.

Where have all the bookshops gone? Into coffee shops, every one

Everyone these days is calling themselves a liberal, while bookshops close in an ancient seat of learning. If you’re not confused about the logic of this, how can you understand what’s going on?

Participation is bigger than voting

In Issue 3 of openDemocracy, we published an interview with Esther Dyson on governing the Internet. She described how ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was created - and called for global parties to keep it open and accountable. Our members had the opportunity to put their questions to her in our debate section. Just back from a meeting of the At-Large Study Committee of ICANN, she responds to six of them, dealing with issues of both process and principle. She finishes by examining notions of global democracy.

Neither history nor mystery but reality

The core arguments against the way public sector broadcasting operates in the UK are restated by the media section co-editor: excessive cost, inefficiency, and (in the context of a fragmenting audience) anachronism. By the valid criterion of good value for public money, BBC and Channel 4 simply do not cut the mustard.

Chemical warfare in the bathroom

The morning shave and hair wash was once so simple. But life for a man is getting harder… especially when you examine the shampoo bottle.

The Indian media: a response to Page and Crawley

Those who have endured decades of perverse Bollywood fantasies bombarding their own besieged cultures will point to darker shades cast by India’s pretensions to world power status.

Hybrid media helps democracy breathe

Latin America has been stony ground for public broadcasting. In the era of privatisation, political timidity in the face of business has facilitated “state capture” by media moguls. But can local, democratic vitality and imaginative use of new technology add diversity to the media landscape?

Everyone comes to Café Europa

People are reassembling communities in the global public spaces between home, work, and country of origin. Researching her play about the hard road from Macedonia to London, a dramatist discovers the exile café to be not just a place of refuge, but a metaphor for the continent’s future.

After the fall from grace

This old school Conservative with a social conscience has good memories of a secure life in Lincolnshire, Cambridge, and London. But, as she tells openDemocracy, her work with the London poor, and encounters with the Worcester young, confirm her sense of a society losing its sense of discipline and authority. As for politics, when you have voted for Churchill and Thatcher, how could Blair or Hague inspire?

Bicycle route to a reformed Europe

The Europe of tomorrow must serve its citizens in an open, dedicated and honest way. This means turning towards transparency and clear rules, says the EU ombudsman Jacob Söderman. But it is also up to European citizens to bury the bureaucratic world of Kafka and Gogol.

The politics of freedom

Their second electoral defeat has seen the Conservatives embrace a language of freedom – over drugs and censorship as well as hunting. The Labour government, cast as illiberal during its first term, seems less interested in the issue. This is a mistake: convincing people that the state can enlarge people’s freedom will be a vital task of Labour’s second term.

Do we want freedom, or simply to rattle the bars?

Talk of freedom often masks a clamour for rights. And the instincts of survival and belonging can seem more truly precious than the lonely attractions of non-conformism. Yet, says the chairman of the Countryside Alliance, there is a freedom beyond rights that must be guaranteed in writing if democracy is to work well.

Pearl Harbour: America's escape into myth

Behind the bombastic special effects, Michael Bay’s epic of the 1941 “day of infamy” is the product of an America steeped in regressive myths of death, innocence, and purity.

Listening but not hearing: the Ken Burns version

The documentary history of jazz by Ken Burns is the work of a raw enthusiast, unbalanced in judgment, flawed by hero-worship, and tone-deaf to unorthodox streams of the great river. A respected jazz critic acknowledges its merits... and makes its silences audible.

The future is classical

Modernist architecture is more than a failure; it is a mistake. It has degraded our cities and ruptured the dialogue across generations essential to civic life. The future lies in a return to the principles of classicism: “fittingness” of building and settlement, part and whole, people and dwellings.

Why can't we be confused?

You’ve decoded Derrida, mangled De Man, slurped Sollers, and cursed Kristeva. But what do you make of the new darling of French philosophy, Francois Deluges? After you, dear reader...

In the global economy, even body parts are for sale

The sale of body parts is illegal in every country in the world except China and Iran. But an intrepid television reporter tracks down a production line that stretches from the villages of Moldova (now officially the poorest country in Europe) via Istanbul to Israel. She discovers that the organ business is thriving and even government funded.

Business is part of the solution

There is more to Bonn, the WTO and the G8 than tear gas and cigar smoke. Their lesson, says the head of the International Chamber of Commerce, is that effective policy outcomes require the involvement of governments, business and NGOs alike.

Days of hope, rage and tragedy: from the summit foothills

An involved observer moves between the white overalls, the black block, and straw-hatted England in search of the truth behind the headlines. A vivid diary of the historic Genoa summit.

America, Europe, Iran: a view from Tehran

The trend of United States security policy reinforces the need for a fresh approach to international relations, argues an Iranian scholar of international affairs.

Planning for humanity

Land scarcity in Britain is a myth spun into fact by planning controls. To this extent Jules Lubbock is right. But the way towards individual freedom and community rebirth, says Prince Charles’s favourite architect, is not to collapse the controls, but through the careful release of millions of plots of land in variegated new settlements.

Brass monkeys

By the logic of New Labour “Absolutely Fabulous” promotes drunkenness and child abuse, and “Fawlty Towers” is offensive to Britain’s hoteliers.

Widening Atlantic?

Security policy differences between Europe and the US are real and growing. A researcher of international security and conflict mediation sketches those differences – from missile defence and weaponisation of space to nuclear policy and arms control. Is US “unilateralism” a danger, and how should its allies respond?

The night I became European

The EU has enlarged, not diminished, freedom for Portugal: the liberating end to a purely national destiny, even with jaqizimhos no longer on the menu. A Portuguese writer describes how a disco night and a visit to Morocco helped reinforce a borderless confidence.

Italy's television, Italy's democracy

Silvio Berlusconi’s victory in the Italian general election returned the TV mogul to political power. But the Italian people were not brainwashed by his television stations. Rather, the skills and resources of his corporate machine allowed him to construct the right wing alliance which now dominates Italian politics.

British democracy? No thanks!

The British general election is viewed from classical Athens... and found wanting.

Smarter planning, better living

Jules Lubbock is wrong: dismantle the planning system, and people will want three cars and an acre, as in the US. The result? An urban disaster.

Testing the argument for social living

Passion spills over the fields of green and brown where a calm assessment of real alternatives is needed. Progress towards sustainability is possible, but requires a portfolio approach that addresses the needs of different environments and geographical regions.

The world turned upside down

What if the roles were reversed? Would corporate chiefs throw chairs?

New Zealand television picks up the pieces

After the single-channel conformism of the 1970s and the free market typhoon of the 1980s, New Zealand is trying to establish a public service culture in a commercial broadcasting environment. The head of news at Channel 4 went there to learn, advise – and report.