Swiss citizens are often consulted on political issues, but rarely on social and collective ones. Using the city of Zurich as an example, the essay gives detailed information on the use and workings of direct democracy at the local level. The author lists the various types of direct democracy and illustrates the frequency of recourse to the secret ballot, percentages of voter turnout, and the results of voting. Finally, he assesses the relationship between direct democracy and the political parties, and the position of direct democracy amid the conflicting goals of legitimation and efficiency of the system. The essay offers insights into the organization of the instruments of participation in direct democracy. On the basis of the specific case of Zurich, where by now excessive use is made of direct democracy, the author stresses a number of errors to be avoided when introducing the concept of direct democracy.