Book Review - Should it Have Been Called Republic.Com 1.5? Reviewing Cass Sunstein's 'Republic.Com 2.0' (2007)
18 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2008
Date Written: March 12, 2008
Sunstein's argument in the original 2001 Republic.com and in this new 2007 version is that democracy requires a range of common experiences (social glue) and unanticipated exposure to diverse points of view, but that the Internet fails society on both counts. Sunstein believes that the Internet tends to create social fragmentation by encouraging individuals to sort themselves into deliberative enclaves of like-minded people and assisting them to filter out unwanted, opposing opinions. Republic.com 2.0 is much less than it could have been had the author cited opposing points of view more frequently, not been so US-centric, and considered recent uses of the Internet to enhance democracy, such as voter mobilization and politician voting record sites. The book would also have benefited considerably from a discussion of virtual worlds, such as Second Life. Sunstein should be given credit, however, for withdrawing the misguided policy proposal presented in the original 2001 Republic.com for legislation requiring cross-links between web sites of opposing viewpoints.
Keywords: 9/11, cross-linking, web 2.0, deliberative democracy, voter mobilization, political transparency, transaction costs, free speech, information aggregation, perfect filtering, virtual worlds.
JEL Classification: D23, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation