Already in the 1960s the researchers knew that the democratic elections do not fulfill the purpose we believe they do (field research showed that the voters are unfamiliar with issues; that the incumbents don't fulfill their promises; and so on). Murray Edelman took this line of thought a step further: The elections do serve a purpose, but that purpose is "symbolic" (they make people feel they were asked, and thereby legitimize governments and policies). We adopted and generalized his keyword, and propose to use it as an antonym to systemic. We see "global issues", and that something must be done; but our repertoire of actions being confined to what's "allowed", our action remains symbolic: We write a research paper; or organize a conference.
- This more recent commentary