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Democracy and the Limits of Self-Government

$27.99 (G)

Part of Cambridge Studies in the Theory of Democracy

  • Date Published: June 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521140119

$ 27.99 (G)
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About the Authors
  • The political institutions under which we live today evolved from a revolutionary idea that shook the world in the second part of the eighteenth century: that a people should govern itself. Yet if we judge contemporary democracies by the ideals of self-government, equality, and liberty, we find that democracy is not what it was dreamt to be. This book addresses central issues in democratic theory by analyzing the sources of widespread dissatisfaction with democracies around the world. With attention throughout to historical and cross-national variations, the focus is on the generic limits of democracy in promoting equality, effective participation, control of governments by citizens, and liberty. The conclusion is that although some of this dissatisfaction has good reasons, some is based on an erroneous understanding of how democracy functions. Hence, although the analysis identifies the limits of democracy, it also points to directions for feasible reforms.

    • Classical democratic theory is analyzed by bringing to bear the analytical apparatus of modern political science
    • Contrary to the standard focus on a handful of countries, the book covers all democracies that ever existed in the world
    • Addresses central issues in democracy by analyzing sources of widespread dissatisfaction
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “Adam Przeworski’s powerful and incisive book is the best informed and most impressive summary of what we have learnt in recent decades about the character and political significance of democracy in its current forms across the world and the forces which have carried it so far. It combines the normative force and generosity of a vivid egalitarianism and the clarity and frankness of the soberest realism with an acutely sensitive and impressively cosmopolitan political judgment. Anyone who wishes to understand what democracy now means or to judge what its prospects are in future decades would be well advised to start off now from Democracy and the Limits of Self-Government.”
    —John Dunn, University of Cambridge

    “This book is a little gem, which summarizes the author’s extensive knowledge of topics of crucial importance for all those interested in democracy: self-government, liberty, equality, agency, participation. The reader will find an approach carefully informed by the most advanced literature in the social sciences, including economics, political philosophy, political science, history and law, disciplines that Adam Przeworski handles with extraordinary expertise. The book is, most of all, a brilliant collection of important questions, which the author poses to us—and to himself—in his attempt to understand the limits and possibilities of democratic reform.”
    —Roberto Gargarella, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas

    “Prezworski’s book is a sobering account of the limits of democracy; yet it is sober without being cynical. An amazingly informed analytical description with a normative punch, the book tells us what democracy really is, and what we are entitled to hope for from it. Far from simply assuming what democracy should be, Przeworski’s recommendations are guided by his acute sense of what democracy really is. This is an immensely important contribution.”
    —Avishai Margalit, Institute for Advanced Study

    “If you have time to read one book about democracy, and only one, this should be it. It contains an engaging synthesis of arguments that Adam Przeworski has been developing for decades, leavened by an astonishing wealth of historical and contemporary data. Przeworski supplies a hardheaded defense of democracy as the best system yet devised to prevent politics from degenerating into civil war. He also explains why many democracies could do better at managing collective self government so as to strengthen freedom and choice, and he offers realistic strategies for reform. This is applied political theory at its best.”
    —Ian Shapiro, Yale University, author of The Real World of Democratic Theory

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521140119
    • length: 218 pages
    • dimensions: 224 x 150 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.36kg
    • contains: 15 b/w illus. 6 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Self-government of the people
    3. A brief history of representative institutions
    4. Equality
    5. Choice and participation
    6. Agency
    7. Liberty
    8. Democracy as an implementation of self-government in our times.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Area Studies
    • Comparative Democratication
    • Cont. Democratic Theory
    • Democracy and its Critics
    • Dilemmas of Democracy
    • Libertarianism
    • Politics in East Central Europe
    • Selected Topics in Comparative Politics: Introduction to Comparative Politics
    • Seminar in Comparative Politics
    • Senior Seminar (on Democracy)
    • Theories of Democracy
  • Author

    Adam Przeworski, New York University
    Adam Przeworski is the Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Politics at New York University. Previously, he was the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. He is the author of thirteen books and numerous articles. His recent publications include Democracy and Development, co-authored with Michael R. Alvarez, José Antonio Cheibub and Fernando Limongi (2000), Democracy and the Rule of Law, co-edited with José María Maravall (2003), and States and Markets (2003). He is the recipient of the 2001 Woodrow Wilson Prize.

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