This paper argues for a sceptical approach to the political promise of Web 2.0. In particular it examines critically the claims made about participation and the ‘network public sphere’ in Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks. Moreover it argues that the work of Bernard Stiegler and that of others in the Ars Industrialis group cofounded by Stiegler can help inform a more nuanced account of the relationship between politics, participation and technics. It looks specifically at the arguments in Marc Crépon and Bernard Stiegler’s recent book De la démocratie participative, written during the recent French presidential campaign, and examines how the idea of participation articulates with key themes in Stiegler’s philosophy of technics. Finally it suggests some ways in which this debate on participation might be moved on.