First Advisor

Gerry Sussman

Term of Graduation

Spring 2009

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies




Direct democracy -- Oregon, Referendum -- Oregon, Populism -- Oregon, Political consultants -- Oregon



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, ix, 302 pages)


What are the democratic implications of the increasing professionalization of direct democracy?

The dissertation takes a critical approach to the "initiative-industrial complex" and offers a counter-thesis to prevailing scholarly research on the substantial growth in the use of political consultants in initiative campaigns. The political economic analysis approaches direct legislation campaigns and elections as constituent parts of a system of legitimation for the existing set of social relations.

An historical analysis reveals that the contemporary era of initiative activity rivals that of its frequent use during the populist and progressive eras; and that in the early 21st century direct legislation represents a significant element of the political landscape of the 24 states permitting its use.

The analysis concentrates specifically on Oregon's initiative system during the 2000 to 2008 election period, with a focus on 4 high-stakes campaigns (2 from the 2000 election and 2 from 2006). The contemporary era of direct democracy reflects the ascendancy of the principles of neoliberalism and includes unprecedented financial flows into initiative campaigns in Oregon and other states with a system of direct legislation. The Oregon initiative campaigns discussed in the study demonstrate the heightened technification, industrialization, and "scienticization" (Habermas) of direct democracy campaigns and elections.

The study found that wealthy organized and elite interests exploit the populist origins of the initiative process for political and ideological advancement, and that "crypto-initiatives" are employed to force labor and public sector advocates to expend valuable financial and human resources in their defense. Moreover, it finds that technologically-mediated campaigns construct voters as consumers approaching them in the manner of private exchange relations and therefore have questionable secondary educational and/or civic benefits.


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