Collective Deliberation to Outweigh Oligocracy

The complex interplay between individual claims and collective fights has always characterised European democracies. However, after the fall of the USSR and the repeated crises of globalisation, we are still struggling to balance the pursuit of individual rights and freedoms with reducing social inequalities. How can we secure political representation, citizens’ engagement, and deliberative democracy in this changing landscape?

Digital Revolution’s Impact on Collectivism and Individualism

Both collectivism and individualism have been radically reframed by the advent of the digital revolution. The traditionally Marxist forms of collectivism have shifted to a widespread model where governments cooperate with private oligopolies. Meanwhile, intermediate bodies — political parties, civil society, public opinion, and other forms of popular representation — are gradually losing their influence on the decision-making system.

The advent of Big Tech poses two major concerns. First, their economic weight is often overwhelmingly larger than entire countries and regions. Second, and even more unsettling, is their control over the Internet and cyberspace, influencing what users experience, think, and do.

In 1996, John Perry Barlow could still advocate for a Declaration of the Independence of the Internet, envisioning it as a space free from governmental control. However, by the early 2000s, Lawrence Lessig acknowledged that the converging interests of Code (law, political power) and Commerce (capitalism) would soon reshape the digital world to strengthen control (1). Various models of Internet governance have since emerged, reflecting how political institutions in the EU, the US, Russia, and China interpret the role of the government, the interplay between public and private actors, and individual fundamental rights (2). In a nutshell, the ‘virtual’ has become our political environment as much as reality.

Preserving Individual Freedoms and Rights

In a period of rising securitarian narratives, uncertainty, surveillance, and private-public centralization, how can individual freedom and rights be preserved? The answer lies in safeguarding certain shared ‘constitutional’ rights. However, implementing this is complex.

ICTs, Social Media, AI, and algorithms are profoundly reshaping the ‘public sphere’—the public agora where everyone participates and addresses a common agenda of problems, regardless of differing solutions. In the digital world, the boundaries between personal and public instances are blurred, creating an osmosis between individual and collective spheres (3). Democratic participation thrives in public instances, especially digital tools. In contrast, individual rights are threatened by the disintegration of the public sphere through filtering algorithms, echo chambers, and polarizing attention-keeper techniques. These mechanisms tend to entrench society in increasingly fractured small groups with special interests, undermining the cohesion and effective functioning of a democratic society (4).

The Path Forward

Growth, innovation, and science are essential for societal development. However, to make them sustainable and fair, we need a public authority that secures fundamental rights for citizens. Given the geopolitical tensions, finding a global agreement on fundamental rights seems unlikely. Nevertheless, we can frame our advocacy within the European region, involving EU member states, institutions, and the Council of Europe. Here, common ground on civil liberties, the rule of law, civic engagement, and the ecological transition can and must be found. This process involves creating a true pan-European public sphere through grassroots movements, one-issue mobilisations, and the European Citizens’ Initiatives. We can then hope for the ‘Brussels effect’ to spread European principles and regulations beyond the EU borders.

Methodology for Agreement

Agreement on values and rights, or how to translate them into proper policies and implementations, can only be found if these decisions are moved from inter-governmental politics to citizen-centric bodies. These may be citizens’ assemblies, platforms for digital debate, multistakeholder conferences, or other forms of civic engagement. It is crucial to make all interested actors feel heard and engaged. Only when governments, companies, civil society, scholars, professionals, and all representatives of society sit at the same table and are fairly involved in the decision-making process can an inclusive form of deliberative democracy be achieved.

Our Mission

Democracy is about principles and processes. They are intertwined and inseparable. While fostering civil liberties, sustainability, transparency, and popular deliberation mechanisms, we also believe that multistakeholder initiatives and citizen assemblies are valuable on their own. They may not be immediately effective in terms of policy production but are paramount to building a sense of community and participation in the long run. This is why we strongly advocate for maintaining, improving, and extending the platform launched by the Conference on the Future of Europe and establishing similar initiatives on the most divisive topics in the political debate.

Our mission is to boost freedom and fundamental rights by building a healthy, non-polarized, pan-European civil society.

Help Eumans concretize its mission: make the change, be the change!



  1. L. Lessig, Code: Version 2.0, New York, NY: Basic Books, 2006.
  2. K. O’Hara & W. Hall, Four Internets: Data, Geopolitics, and the Governance of Cyberspace, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2021. 
  3. G. Sgueo, The Design of Digital Democracy, Cham: Springer, 2023.
  4. L. Lessig, Code