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Princeton University Press
The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy

The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy

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Politically active individuals and organizations make huge investments of time, energy, and money to influence everything from election outcomes to congressional subcommittee hearings to local school politics, while other groups and individual citizens seem woefully underrepresented in our political system. The Unheavenly Chorus is the most comprehensive and systematic examination of political voice in America ever undertaken—and its findings are sobering.

The Unheavenly Chorus is the first book to look at the political participation of individual citizens alongside the political advocacy of thousands of organized interests—membership associations such as unions, professional associations, trade associations, and citizens groups, as well as organizations like corporations, hospitals, and universities. Drawing on numerous in-depth surveys of members of the public as well as the largest database of interest organizations ever created—representing more than thirty-five thousand organizations over a twenty-five-year period—this book conclusively demonstrates that American democracy is marred by deeply ingrained and persistent class-based political inequality. The well educated and affluent are active in many ways to make their voices heard, while the less advantaged are not. This book reveals how the political voices of organized interests are even less representative than those of individuals, how political advantage is handed down across generations, how recruitment to political activity perpetuates and exaggerates existing biases, how political voice on the Internet replicates these inequalities—and more.

In a true democracy, the preferences and needs of all citizens deserve equal consideration. Yet equal consideration is only possible with equal citizen voice. The Unheavenly Chorus reveals how far we really are from the democratic ideal and how hard it would be to attain it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691159867
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 08/25/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 728
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Kay Lehman Schlozman is the J. Joseph Moakley Endowed Professor of Political Science at Boston College. Sidney Verba is the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor Emeritus and Research Professor of Government at Harvard University. Henry E. Brady is Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy and Class of 1941 Monroe Deutsch Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

List of Tables xiii

Preface xvii

Acknowledgments xxv

Chapter 1. Introduction: Democracy and Political Voice 1

PART I: Thinking about Inequality and Political Voice

Chapter 2. The (Ambivalent) Tradition of Equality in America 31

Chapter 3. The Context: Growing Economic Inequality and Weakening Unions 69

Chapter 4. Equal Voice and the Dilemmas of Democracy 96

PART II: Inequality of Political Voice and Individual Participation

Chapter 5. Does Unequal Voice Matter? 117

Chapter 6. The Persistence of Unequal Voice 147

Chapter 7. Unequal at the Starting Line: The Intergenerational Persistence of Political Inequality with Nancy Burns 177

Chapter 8. Political Participation over the Life Cycle with Jennifer Erkulwater 199

Chapter 9. Political Activism and Electoral Democracy: Perspectives on Economic Inequality and Political Polarization 232

PART III: Inequality of Political Voice and Organized Interest Activity

Chapter 10. Political Voice through Organized Interests: Introductory Matters 265

Chapter 11. Who Sings in the Heavenly Chorus? Th e Shape of the Organized Interest System with Traci Burch and Philip Edward Jones 312

Chapter 12. The Changing Pressure Community 347

Chapter 13. Beyond Organizational Categories 370

Chapter 14. Political Voice through Organized Interest Activity with Philip Edward Jones and Traci Burch 393

PART IV: Can We Change the Accent of the Unheavenly Chorus?

Chapter 15. Breaking the Pattern through Political Recruitment 447

Chapter 16. Weapon of the Strong? Participatory Inequality and the Internet 483

Chapter 17. What, if Anything, Is to Be Done? with Shauna Shames 534

Chapter 18. Conclusion: Equal Voice and the Promise of American Democracy 574


Appendix A: Equality and the State and U.S. Constitutions 605

Appendix B: The Persistence of Political and Nonpolitical Activity 608

Appendix C: The Intergenerational Transmission of Political Participation 616

Appendix D: Age, Period, and Cohort Effects 619

Appendix E: The Washington Representatives Database 621

Appendix F: Additional Tables 645

Appendix G: Do Online and Offline Political Activists Differ from One Another? 649

Index 655

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The Unheavenly Chorus is the definitive study of participatory inequality in America. Marshaling prodigious evidence, the authors show how money not only buys influence directly but also affects associations that are supposed to be democratic antidotes to concentrated wealth. A monumental achievement of careful scholarship, this book offers real knowledge of how politics actually operates."—Robert Kuttner, coeditor, The American Prospect

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