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Total democracy is a situation where most aspects of public and private life are touched or governed by democratic institutions. In Finland, this describes the lived reality for millions of people. Education, housing, banking, religion, and even Burger King and funeral parlors are democratic in one way or another. This is due to Finland having record membership rates in co-ops and unions, democratic institutions in schools and universities, and a system of democratic housing governance. Membership in these parademocratic institutions is voluntary, but they represent the ideals of participatory democracy: they open everyday issues, such as grocery shopping, to democratic discussion and deliberation. Due to the abundance of such institutions in Finland, the country can be said to be in a state of total democracy. But is this totality a good thing for democracy? Does it actually increase participation and give power to the people—or is it rather one of the causes of broader democratic malaise?
Veikko Eranti, born 1984, is a political sociologist who works as assistant professor of Urban Sociology at the University of Helsinki. He works at the intersection of democracy, culture, and urban questions, and has recently been developing and refining pragmatic sociology and the theory of justification.