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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.
PrefaceIntroduction: Why Do We Need Institutional Reform?Part I. The Concepts1. Rethinking the Institutions of Representative DemocracyPart II. The People2. Which "People" Are Represented in a Representative Democracy?3. Quasi-Citizens in the Community Are Represented4. Quasi-Citizens in Other Jurisdictions Are RepresentedPart III. The Links5. Connecting People and Decision Makers6. Organizations and Their Alliances Change Rapidly7. Personal Networks Are ImportantPart IV. The Decision Makers8. Law- and Policy Making9. Deliberation Is as Important as Bargaining10. Decisions Are Made in Multiple VenuesConclusion: A ReviewNotesWorks CitedSuggested ReadingsIndex
Columbia University Press