The State of Democratic Theory

Princeton University Press
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What should we expect from democracy, and how likely is it that democracies will live up to those expectations? In The State of Democratic Theory, Ian Shapiro offers a critical assessment of contemporary answers to these questions, lays out his distinctive alternative, and explores its implications for policy and political action.

Some accounts of democracy's purposes focus on aggregating preferences; others deal with collective deliberation in search of the common good. Shapiro reveals the shortcomings of both, arguing instead that democracy should be geared toward minimizing domination throughout society. He contends that Joseph Schumpeter's classic defense of competitive democracy is a useful starting point for achieving this purpose, but that it stands in need of radical supplementation--both with respect to its operation in national political institutions and in its extension to other forms of collective association. Shapiro's unusually wide-ranging discussion also deals with the conditions that make democracy's survival more and less likely, with the challenges presented by ethnic differences and claims for group rights, and with the relations between democracy and the distribution of income and wealth.

Ranging over politics, philosophy, constitutional law, economics, sociology, and psychology, this book is written in Shapiro's characteristic lucid style--a style that engages practitioners within the field while also opening up the debate to newcomers.

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About the author

Ian Shapirois Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University, where he also serves as Henry R. Luce Director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies. Among his many books are The Flight from Reality in the Human Sciences and, with Michael J. Graetz, Death by a Thousand Cuts (both Princeton); and The Moral Foundations of Politics.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 10, 2009
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Pages
200
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ISBN
9781400825899
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / History & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In this book Ian Shapiro develops and extends arguments that have established him as one of today's leading democratic theorists. Shapiro is hardheaded about the realities of politics and power, and the difficulties of fighting injustice and oppression. Yet he makes a compelling case that democracy's legitimacy depends on pressing it into the service of resisting domination, and that democratic theorists must rise to the occasion of fashioning the necessary tools. That vital agenda motivates the arguments of this book.

Tracing modern democracy's roots to John Locke and the American founders, Shapiro shows that they saw more deeply into the dynamics of democratic politics than have many of their successors. Drawing on Lockean and Madisonian insights, Shapiro evaluates democracy's changing global fortunes over the past two decades. He also shows how elusive democracy can be by exploring the contrast between its successful establishment in South Africa and its failures elsewhere--particularly the Middle East. Shapiro spells out the implications of his account for long-standing debates about public opinion, judicial review, abortion, and inherited wealth--as well as more recent preoccupations with globalization, national security, and international terrorism.

Scholars, students, and democratic activists will all learn from Shapiro's trenchant account of democracy's foundations, its history, and its contemporary challenges. They will also find his distinctive democratic vision both illuminating and appealing.

The most widely debated conception of democracy in recent years is deliberative democracy--the idea that citizens or their representatives owe each other mutually acceptable reasons for the laws they enact. Two prominent voices in the ongoing discussion are Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson. In Why Deliberative Democracy?, they move the debate forward beyond their influential book, Democracy and Disagreement.

What exactly is deliberative democracy? Why is it more defensible than its rivals? By offering clear answers to these timely questions, Gutmann and Thompson illuminate the theory and practice of justifying public policies in contemporary democracies. They not only develop their theory of deliberative democracy in new directions but also apply it to new practical problems. They discuss bioethics, health care, truth commissions, educational policy, and decisions to declare war. In "What Deliberative Democracy Means," which opens this collection of essays, they provide the most accessible exposition of deliberative democracy to date. They show how deliberative democracy should play an important role even in the debates about military intervention abroad.

Why Deliberative Democracy? contributes to our understanding of how democratic citizens and their representatives can make justifiable decisions for their society in the face of the fundamental disagreements that are inevitable in diverse societies. Gutmann and Thompson provide a balanced and fair-minded approach that will benefit anyone intent on giving reason and reciprocity a more prominent place in politics than power and special interests.

In this captivating yet troubling book, Ian Shapiro offers a searing indictment of many influential practices in the social sciences and humanities today. Perhaps best known for his critique of rational choice theory, Shapiro expands his purview here. In discipline after discipline, he argues, scholars have fallen prey to inward-looking myopia that results from--and perpetuates--a flight from reality.

In the method-driven academic culture we inhabit, argues Shapiro, researchers too often make display and refinement of their techniques the principal scholarly activity. The result is that they lose sight of the objects of their study. Pet theories and methodological blinders lead unwelcome facts to be ignored, sometimes not even perceived. The targets of Shapiro's critique include the law and economics movement, overzealous formal and statistical modeling, various reductive theories of human behavior, misguided conceptual analysis in political theory, and the Cambridge school of intellectual history.

As an alternative to all of these, Shapiro makes a compelling case for problem-driven social research, rooted in a realist philosophy of science and an antireductionist view of social explanation. In the lucid--if biting--prose for which Shapiro is renowned, he explains why this requires greater critical attention to how problems are specified than is usually undertaken. He illustrates what is at stake for the study of power, democracy, law, and ideology, as well as in normative debates over rights, justice, freedom, virtue, and community. Shapiro answers many critics of his views along the way, securing his position as one of the distinctive social and political theorists of our time.

A state-of-the-art meditation on relations, theoretical and practical, among a familiar triad of themes: comunitarianism, liberalism, and democracy.
--American Political Science Review

A collection of distinguished contributors, from a wide range of disciplines, examine the implications of the resurgence of interest in community. The chapters in Democratic Community consider the fundamental issues that divide liberals and communitarians, as well as the structure of communities, the roles of freedom and democratic institutions in sustaining one another, the place of a democratic civil society in a democratic polity, and the contributions of feminist thinking.

This thirty-fifth volume in the American Society of Political and Legal Philosophy series is devoted, as is each volume in the series, to a single topic-- in this case, the implications for human nature and democratic theory of the resurgence of interest in community. Democratic Community deals not only with fundamental issues that divide liberals and communitarians, but is also concerned with the structure of communities, the roles of freedom and democratic institutions in sustaining one another, the place of a democratic civil society in a democratic polity, and the contributions of feminist thinking to the great debate. The collection of distinguished contributors, from a wide range of disciplines, includes: Richard J. Arneson (University of California, San Diego), Jean Baechler (University of Paris, Sorbonne), Christopher J. Berry (University of Glasgow), Robert A. Dahl (Yale University), Martin P. Golding (Duke University), Carol C. Gould (Stevens Institute of Technology), Amy Gutmann (Princeton University), Jane Mansbridge (Northwestern University), Kenneth Minogue (London School of Economics), Robert C. Post (University of California, Berkeley), David A. J. Richards (New York University), Gerald N. Rosenberg (University of Chicago), Bruce K. Rutherford (Yale University), Alan Ryan (Princeton University), and Carmen Sirianni (Brandeis University).

With 16 original essays all published here for the first time, Theory and Practice focuses on the relationship between philosophical tradition and everyday life in the Western tradition. In this comprehensive volume, Ian Shapiro and Judith Wagner DeCew have gathered contributions from some of the most influential thinkers of our generation including Cass Sunnstein, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Martha Nussbaum, Jeremy Waldron, and Kent Greenwalt.

What are the relations between philosophical theories and everyday life? This question, as old as it is profound, is the central focus of Theory and Practice. The contributors include some of the most influential thinkers of our generation, among them Cass Sunnstein, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Martha Nessbaum, Jeremy Waldron, and Kent Greenwalt. In sixteen chapters--all published here for the first time—the authors examine major attempts to reconcile theory with practice in the Western tradition from Herodotus, Plato, and Aristotle to Kant and Heidegger.

Considerable attention is devoted to the role of theory in judicial decision-making, debates between defenders of the value of pure theory and those who argue for the priority of practice, the political implications of theory, practical problems such as global warming, and the theoretical commitments of practitioners from Karl Marx to Vaclav Havel. One of the most expansive volumes in the NOMOS series to date, Theory and Practice will be of interest to philosophers, lawyers, and social scientists from a wide range of disciplines.

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