In this prize-winning book, one of the most prominent political theorists of our time makes a major statement about what democracy is and why it is important. Robert Dahl examines the most basic assumptions of democratic theory, tests them against the questions raised by its critics, and recasts the theory of democracy into a new and coherent whole. He concludes by discussing the directions in which democracy must move if advanced democratic states are to exist in the future. "When Robert Dahl speaks about democracy, ...
In this prize-winning book, one of the most prominent political theorists of our time makes a major statement about what democracy is and why it is important. Robert Dahl examines the most basic assumptions of democratic theory, tests them against the questions raised by its critics, and recasts the theory of democracy into a new and coherent whole. He concludes by discussing the directions in which democracy must move if advanced democratic states are to exist in the future. "When Robert Dahl speaks about democracy, everyone should listen. With Democracy and Its Critics Dahl has produced a work destined to become another classic."--Lucian W. Pye, American Political Science Review "In this magisterial work [Dahl]... describe[s] what democracy means...; why our own democracy is still deeply flawed; and how we could reform it.... A work of extraordinary intelligence and, what is even rarer, a work of extraordinary wisdom."--Robert N. Bellah, New York Times Book Review Robert A. Dahl , Sterling Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Yale Universtiy, is also the author of Who Governs?, After the Revolution?, Polyarchy, and Dilemmas of Pluralist Democracy, all available from Yale University Press.
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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.
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