The Real World of Democratic Theory

Princeton University Press
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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.

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About the author

Ian Shapiro is the Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University. Among his many books are Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy against Global Terror and The Flight from Reality in the Human Sciences (both Princeton).
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Princeton University Press
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Published on
Nov 22, 2010
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Political Science / History & Theory
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Democracy
Political Science / Political Process / General
Political Science / Political Process / Political Advocacy
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Eligible for Family Library

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In this powerfully argued book, Ian Shapiro shows that the idea of containment offers the best hope for protecting Americans and their democracy into the future. His bold vision for American security in the post-September 11 world is reminiscent of George Kennan's historic "Long Telegram," in which the containment strategy that won the Cold War was first developed.

The Bush Doctrine of preemptive war and unilateral action has been marked by incompetence--missed opportunities to capture Osama bin Laden, failures of postwar planning for Iraq, and lack of an exit strategy. But Shapiro contends that the problems run deeper. He explains how the Bush Doctrine departs from the best traditions of American national-security policy and accepted international norms, and renders Americans and democratic values less safe. He debunks the belief that containment is obsolete. Terror networks might be elusive, but the enabling states that make them dangerous can be contained. Shapiro defends containment against charges of appeasement, arguing that force against a direct threat will be needed. He outlines new approaches to intelligence, finance, allies, diplomacy, and international institutions. He explains why containment is the best alternative to a misguided agenda that naively assumes democratic regime change is possible from the barrel of an American gun.

President Bush has defined the War on Terror as the decisive ideological struggle of our time. Shapiro shows what a self-defeating mistake that is. He sets out a viable alternative that offers real security to Americans, reclaims America's international stature, and promotes democracy around the world.

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.

#1 National Bestseller

From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.

They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. That Cambodian girl eventually escaped from her brothel and, with assistance from an aid group, built a thriving retail business that supports her family. The Ethiopian woman had her injuries repaired and in time became a surgeon. A Zimbabwean mother of five, counseled to return to school, earned her doctorate and became an expert on AIDS.

Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.

Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen.
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.

From the sprawling remnants of the Soviet empire to the southern tip of Africa, attempts are underway to replace arbitrary political regimes with governments constrained by the rule of law. This ideal which subordinates the wills of individuals, social movements--and even, sometimes, democratically elected majorities--to the requirements of law, is here explored by leading legal and political thinkers.

Part I of The Rule of Law examines the interplay of democracy and the rule of law, while Part II focusses on the centuries-old debate about the meaning of the rule of law itself. Part III takes up the constraints that rationality exercises on the rule of law. If the rule of law is desirable partly because it is rational, then departures from that rule might also be desirable in the event that they can be shown to be rational. Part IV concentrates on the limits of the rule of law, considering the tensions between liberalism and the rule of law which exist despite the fact that reasoned commitment to the rule of the law is preeminently a liberal commitment.
Contributing to the volume are: Robert A. Burt (Yale University), Steven J. Burton (University of Iowa), William N. Eskridge, Jr. (Georgetown University), John Ferejohn (Stanford University), Richard Flathman (Johns Hopkins University), Gerald F. Gaus (University of Minnesota, Duluth), Jean Hampton (University of Arizona), Russell Hardin (University of Chicago), James Johnson (University of Rochester), Jack Knight (Washington University), Stephen Macedo (Harvard University), David Schmidtz (Yale University), Lawrence B. Solum (Loyola Marymount University), Michael Walzer (Princeton University), Catherine Valcke (University of Toronto), and Michael P. Zuckert (Carleton College).

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