Democracy for Realists assails the romantic folk-theory at the heart of contemporary thinking about democratic politics and government, and offers a provocative alternative view grounded in the actual human nature of democratic citizens.
Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels deploy a wealth of social-scientific evidence, including ingenious original analyses of topics ranging from abortion politics and budget deficits to the Great Depression and shark attacks, to show that the familiar ideal of thoughtful citizens steering the ship of state from the voting booth is fundamentally misguided. They demonstrate that voters—even those who are well informed and politically engaged—mostly choose parties and candidates on the basis of social identities and partisan loyalties, not political issues. They also show that voters adjust their policy views and even their perceptions of basic matters of fact to match those loyalties. When parties are roughly evenly matched, elections often turn on irrelevant or misleading considerations such as economic spurts or downturns beyond the incumbents' control; the outcomes are essentially random. Thus, voters do not control the course of public policy, even indirectly.
Achen and Bartels argue that democratic theory needs to be founded on identity groups and political parties, not on the preferences of individual voters. Now with new analysis of the 2016 elections, Democracy for Realists provides a powerful challenge to conventional thinking, pointing the way toward a fundamentally different understanding of the realities and potential of democratic government.
Why do governments underspend on policies that would make their constituents better off? Why do people participate in contentious politics when they could reap benefits if they were to abstain? In Envy in Politics, Gwyneth McClendon contends that if we want to understand these and other forms of puzzling political behavior, we should pay attention to envy, spite, and the pursuit of admiration--all manifestations of our desire to maintain or enhance our status within groups. Drawing together insights from political philosophy, behavioral economics, psychology, and anthropology, McClendon explores how and under what conditions status motivations influence politics.
Through surveys, case studies, interviews, and an experiment, McClendon argues that when concerns about in-group status are unmanaged by social conventions or are explicitly primed by elites, status motivations can become drivers of public opinion and political participation. McClendon focuses on the United States and South Africa—two countries that provide tough tests for her arguments while also demonstrating that the arguments apply in different contexts.
From debates over redistribution to the mobilization of collective action, Envy in Politics presents the first theoretical and empirical investigation of the connection between status motivations and political behavior.
The first edition of Unequal Democracy was an instant classic, shattering illusions about American democracy and spurring scholarly and popular interest in the political causes and consequences of escalating economic inequality. This revised, updated, and expanded second edition includes two new chapters on the political economy of the Obama era. One presents the Great Recession as a "stress test" of the American political system by analyzing the 2008 election and the impact of Barack Obama's "New New Deal" on the economic fortunes of the rich, middle class, and poor. The other assesses the politics of inequality in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the 2012 election, and the partisan gridlock of Obama’s second term. Larry Bartels offers a sobering account of the barriers to change posed by partisan ideologies and the political power of the wealthy. He also provides new analyses of tax policy, partisan differences in economic performance, the struggle to raise the minimum wage, and inequalities in congressional representation.
President Obama identified inequality as "the defining challenge of our time." Unequal Democracy is the definitive account of how and why our political system has failed to rise to that challenge. Now more than ever, this is a book every American needs to read.
Abrajano and Hajnal demonstrate that this political backlash has disquieting implications for the future of race relations in America. White Americans' concerns about Latinos and immigration have led to support for policies that are less generous and more punitive and that conflict with the preferences of much of the immigrant population. America's growing racial and ethnic diversity is leading to a greater racial divide in politics. As whites move to the right of the political spectrum, racial and ethnic minorities generally support the left. Racial divisions in partisanship and voting, as the authors indicate, now outweigh divisions by class, age, gender, and other demographic measures.
White Backlash raises critical questions and concerns about how political beliefs and future elections will change the fate of America's immigrants and minorities, and their relationship with the rest of the nation.
Black Americans are by far the most unified racial group in American electoral politics, with 80 to 90 percent identifying as Democrats—a surprising figure given that nearly a third now also identify as ideologically conservative, up from less than 10 percent in the 1970s. Why has ideological change failed to push more black Americans into the Republican Party? Steadfast Democrats answers this question with a pathbreaking new theory that foregrounds the specificity of the black American experience and illuminates social pressure as the key element of black Americans’ unwavering support for the Democratic Party.
Ismail White and Chryl Laird argue that the roots of black political unity were established through the adversities of slavery and segregation, when black Americans forged uniquely strong social bonds for survival and resistance. White and Laird explain how these tight communities have continued to produce and enforce political norms—including Democratic Party identification in the post–Civil Rights era. The social experience of race for black Americans is thus fundamental to their political choices. Black voters are uniquely influenced by the social expectations of other black Americans to prioritize the group’s ongoing struggle for freedom and equality. When navigating the choice of supporting a political party, this social expectation translates into affiliation with the Democratic Party. Through fresh analysis of survey data and original experiments, White and Laird explore where and how black political norms are enforced, what this means for the future of black politics, and how this framework can be used to understand the electoral behavior of other communities.
An innovative explanation for why black Americans continue in political lockstep, Steadfast Democrats sheds light on the motivations consolidating an influential portion of the American electoral population.