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The State of Democratic Theory
Ian Shapiro

Paperback | 2006 | $28.95 | £23.95 | ISBN: 9780691123967
200 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400825899 |
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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.


"With great insight and nuanced judgment, Shapiro weaves together three literatures-normative democratic theory, the empirical literature on democratization, and debates over the nature of power (and domination). And the book ranges even farther than that: The facility with which [Shapiro] incorporates economic theory, ethnographies of impoverished communities, and constitutional law is extraordinary."--Leonard C. Feldman, Perspectives on Politics

"[Shapiro's] book is not only an authoritative source, but also exceptionally clear, compact, and well written."--George Klosko, Review of Politics

"[Shapiro] is one of the leaders of an emerging literature that combines insights from political theory and empirical scholarship. In [this book], he deploys both to good effect. The book also couples impressive analytical sophistication with clarity of exposition that makes it accessible to lay readers."--Ilya Somin, Cato Journal


"What does recent research tell us about how well democracies actually correspond to the hopes and aspirations we have for them? In this well-crafted and readable analysis, Ian Shapiro gives a sobering but not pessimistic answer to this question. A must read for democratic theorists and citizens alike!"--Iris Young, University of Chicago

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Table of Contents:

Preface ix
Introduction 1
CHAPTER ONE: The Common Good 10
CHAPTER TWO: Deliberation against Domination?35
CHAPTER THREE: Power and Democratic Competition 50
CHAPTER FOUR: Getting and Keeping Democracy 78
CHAPTER FIVE: Democracy and Distribution 104
CHAPTER SIX: Reconsidering the State of Democratic Theory 146
Bibliography 153
Index 173

This book has been translated into:

  • Spanish
  • Chinese (Complex)
  • Polish
  • Japanese
  • Chinese (Simplified)

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Ian Shapiro:


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