Political parties have lost swathes of members and effective power is ever more concentrated in the hands of their leaders. Behind these trends lie changing relationships between economics, the media and politics.
Electoral spending has spiralled out of all control, with powerful economic interests exercising undue influence. The 'level playing field', on which democracy's contests have supposedly been fought, has become ever more sloping and uneven. In many 'democratic' countries media coverage, especially that of television, is heavily biased. Electors become viewers and active participation gives way to mass passivity.
Can things change? By going back to the roots of democracy and examining the relationship between representative and participatory democracy, political historian Paul Ginsborg shows that they can and must.