Reforming Democracies: Six Facts About Politics That Demand a New Agendaby Douglas A. Chalmers
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Even well-established democracies need reform, and any successful effort to reform democracies must look beyond conventional institutionselections, political parties, special interests, legislatures and their relations with chief executivesto do so. Expanding a traditional vision of the institutions of representative democracy, Douglas A. Chalmers examines six aspects of political practice relating to the people being represented, the structure of those who make law and policy, and the links between those structures and the people. Chalmers concludes with a discussion of where successful reform needs to take place: we must pay attention to a democratic ordering of the constant reconfiguration of decision making patterns; we must recognize the crucial role of information in deliberation; and we must incorporate noncitizens and foreigners into the political system, even when they are not the principal beneficiaries.
An important contribution to the study of democracy, Reforming Democracies is sure to appeal to social scientists, policy makers, and activists alike. Douglas A. Chalmer's style is engaging and immanently readable.
In Reforming Democracies, Douglas A. Chalmers offers a thoughtful and challenging critique of the basic concepts informing our understanding of 'liberal democracy.' He begins with questions about the interests that should be represented, including those of not only citizens but also 'quasi-citizens' who play a critical role in the functioning of the polity. He challenges us to move beyond the conventional analysis of party and interest-group linkages between the people and decision makers and to take into account dynamic and informal relationships outside of these traditional channels. Finally, he urges us to look more directly at decision-making as a deliberative as well as a bargaining process. Underlying all of these challenges is an affirmation that 'democracy' should be conceived not only in terms of procedural norms but also in terms of its capacity to govern in the public interest. In this book, Chalmers builds on decades of teaching and writing as a political scientist, yet with its strong normative perspective, it is a work of political philosophy, too. Not everyone will agree with its conclusions, but it is very important to take them into account.
After you read this book, I will bet you will add the terms 'quasi-citizens' and 'decision networks' to your vocabulary. Douglas A. Chalmers takes us to neglected places in the democratic decision-making process and argues that we need new institutions to regulate these places, to facilitate action, benefit the people, and adapt continually through linkages that convey information and accountability. These are new ideas that will shake you up and make you think.
Reforming Democracies has much to ponder about the modern feel of the political landscape, highly recommended.
A well-written and well-organized call for more capacious thinking about the realities of democratic representation in the modern polity.
[Reforming Democracies] has an elegant, personal and stimulating style, which makes it a very enjoyable read.
Exceptionally well written, organized and presented... Reforming Democracies is especially commended to the attention of the non-specialist general reader with an interest in political science and democratic processes.
What People are saying about this
"An important contribution to the study of democracy, Reforming Democracies is sure to appeal to social scientists, policy makers, and activists alike. Chalmer's style is engaging and immanently readable."
Meet the Author
Douglas A. Chalmers has written on German and Latin American politics and has coedited several books, including the New Politics of Inequality: New Forms of Popular Representation in Latin America. The former chair of political science and director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University, he now teaches in, and speaks on, Columbia's Core Curriculum.
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