Reforming Democracies: Six Facts About Politics That Demand a New Agenda [NOOK Book]

Overview

Even well-established democracies need reform, and any successful effort to reform democracies must look beyond conventional institutions—elections, political parties, special interests, legislatures and their relations with chief executives—to 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 ...
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Reforming Democracies: Six Facts About Politics That Demand a New Agenda

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Overview

Even well-established democracies need reform, and any successful effort to reform democracies must look beyond conventional institutions—elections, political parties, special interests, legislatures and their relations with chief executives—to 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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This illuminating examination of the challenges faced by democracies looks beyond the usual culprits. Columbia University political science professor Chalmers identifies six less-discussed aspects of democracies that must be addressed before true, meaningful reforms can occur. First, he proposes that governments take into greater account the wide variety of noncitizens, or “quasi-citizens,” living and working under their watch, from undocumented immigrants to foreign-owned companies. Despite typically lacking the citizen’s traditional power of the vote, quasi-citizens can still exert their own forms of influence on decision making in their host countries. To the concerns of quasi-citizens, Chalmers adds other nations and outside international organizations to his list of the nonvoters that a democracy must routinely take into account. Also key to the book’s conception of democracy are the personal networks that invariably form around leaders, often exercising even more influence over policy than formal structures like political parties and bureaucracies. Understanding the biases inherent in such networks, Chalmers suggests, can help policymakers avoid mistakes such as the tight-knit Bush administration’s rush to war with Iraq. Well written and thoughtful, this book should provoke conversations among those seeking changes to an imperfect system. (Jan.)
Mark B. Brown

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.

Robert Kaufman

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.

Jane Mansbridge

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.

The Midwest Book Review

Reforming Democracies has much to ponder about the modern feel of the political landscape, highly recommended.

Perspectives on Politics - Ethan J. Leib

A well-written and well-organized call for more capacious thinking about the realities of democratic representation in the modern polity.

Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

[ Reforming Democracies] has an elegant, personal and stimulating style, which makes it a very enjoyable read.

Kirkus Reviews
A political scientist identifies six aspects about modern democracy that require examination and revision. Chalmers, who has co-edited a number of books (The New Politics of Inequality: New Forms of Popular Representation in Latin America, 1997, etc.), presents the edited texts of his Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lectures at Columbia in 2007, and his text retains the general structure, technique and tone of its original incarnation. Introductions, enumerations, repetitions, summaries and conclusions appear throughout. The author begins by identifying problems--even threats--to democracy, including inequality and corruption, then lists some conventional ways of dealing with them--new policies and revolutions of various sorts. He declares that a democracy must establish "political processes [that] lead to public welfare"--a point he continually reiterates. He then examines various models of representative institutions that have existed, and he devotes a major section to the concept of the "people" in a democracy--who's included, who isn't. He also explores the notion of "quasi-citizens," people who are here but aren't official citizens, and he urges their formal involvement. Next: how to connect the people to the decision-makers. Chalmers views what he calls "personal networks" as essential (though in need of control) and urges an emphasis on deliberation. He sees the Iraq invasion as a failure of deliberation. Finally, he discusses the necessity of multiple levels of decision-making. The author intends to identify problem areas, not to suggest anything more than a generic sort of solution (we "need to establish principles"), but he recognizes that traditional democracy must move more quickly in the digital age. The rub of conventional writing against novel ideas produces enough friction for some intellectual fire.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231531054
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2013
  • Series: Leonard Hastings Schoff Lectures
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • File size: 826 KB

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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Table of Contents

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

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