Algorithmic decision-making systems are increasingly used in many areas throughout society where they steer the behaviors of a potentially vast number of people. They come into contact with these systems mostly through widely used platforms or services in the private sector. However, the state too shows a growing inclination to employ algorithmic decision-making systems in its operations, e.g. in the managing of resources and processes of so-called smart cities. It is therefore an important question, what kind of governance algorithmic systems establish and how this relates to democratic standards of legitimacy.
I deal with this question in a paper that has been published in Philosophy & Technology. It draws on governance theory and political theory to shed light on the nature of algorithmic governance. It argues that this kind of governance indeed forms a novel way of coordinating behaviors and managing societal complexity – one that is potentially also highly responsive to individual preferences. Yet despite its responsiveness and ability to accomodate pluralistic preferences, algorithmic governance nonetheless is qualitatively different from the political that characterizes democratic politics. The article develops this argument by comparing algorithmic governance with Thomas Hobbes’ figure of the Leviathan.