Textbook, anachronistic argument and polemic Mar 12, 2010
This is a strange book, it should be said from the outset. Strange, but good. Professor Dahl introduces the reader to the history of theories of democracy, partly by providing a historical account, partly by conjuring up debates between proponents of different ideas from across the centuries. Thus ancient greeks may hold lively conversations with the framers of the US constitution. Strange, but somehow effective. And it all somehow seems to lead onward to the next chapter, and - ultimately - to the culmination of intellectual history that is professor Dahl's theory of democracy.
This book should not be taken as a standard, albeit pedagogically innovative, textbook though. It is a long argument on behalf of Dahl's pluralist, social democratic views about democratic principles. Equality demands equal voting shares in the state, and some - not very extensive - protections of minorities. To Dahl, that argument also seems to be applicable to corporate enterprises by virtue of... well, by virtue of being associations of some kind.
That said, this is a thought-provoking introduction for the student who hasn't read a lot of political theory. It is very readable, and an interesting book at that. For a more systematic account, one can look to eg David Held's (similarly social-democratic, but less polemically written) Models of democracy.