HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government


In every society in many arenas, the reality of collective decision ;making falls far short of the democratic ideal in countless ways. These shortfalls include disenfranchisement, unequal influence operating through formal and informal mechanisms, political apathy and alienation, misinformation, and misperception. Part of the solutions to these challenges lies in a sound democratic constitution. But there is no once-and-for-all solution. Instead, approaching the democratic ideal requires political practices of continuous democratic innovation. The need for continuous innovation stems from a fundamental dynamics of democratic sclerosis in which advantaged individuals and factions in society will seek to entrench their authority and so disempower others. That innovation, in turn, requires a certain civic infrastructure and political practices. Elements of that infrastructure include citizens who look forward restlessly to democratic improvements rather than reverentially backward to an imagined golden democratic age, political leaders and advocates who press not just for their policy preferences but for improvements in the processes of democratic governance, and an intellectual class that offers not just explanations of political phenomena, but solutions to democracy's problems.


Fung, Archon. "Continuous Institutional Innovation and the Pragmatic Conception of Democracy." Polity 44.4 (October 2012).