How might we think about democratic governance? This paper distinguishes between system governance and radical democracy. System governance borrows the language of radical democracy while missing its spirit. It advocates increased participation through networks because new institutionalists suggest networks are an efficient means of service delivery. It advocates increased consultation to build consensus because communitarians suggest consensus is needed for effective political institutions. System governance is, then, a top-down discourse based on the alleged expertise of social scientists. Radical democrats concentrate instead on the self-government of citizens. Instead of the incorporation of established groups in networks, they promote a pluralism within which aspects of governance are handed over to associations in civil society. And instead of consultation prior to decision making, they promote a dialogue in which citizens play an active role in making and implementing public policy.