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Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy


  • Author: David Altman, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
  • Date Published: December 2018
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from October 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108496636

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About the Authors
  • Standing out from all other books on direct democracy, Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy connects the study of direct democracy to the broader field of comparative democratization and to an important strand in normative democratic theory. Analyzing the relationship between direct democracy and representative government, this book is organized around three main sections: the origins of contemporary direct democracy, its functioning, and the ways to improve the use of direct democracy and its abuse. David Altman argues that citizen-initiated mechanisms of direct democracy constitute an important and viable way to re-invigorate current representative regimes by strengthening democracies' normative foundations - freedom and equity among citizens - which are particularly fragile in the context of unequal societies. Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy demonstrates how citizen-initiated mechanisms of direct democracy empowers citizens, channels social demands, defuses violence, re-enchants citizens with politics, and breaks through some of the institutionalized barriers to accountability that arise in representative systems.

    • Connects the study of direct democracy to the broader field of comparative democratization
    • Offers a new view of the most discussed contemporary democratic innovations
    • Offers the first major cross-national, comparative study of the origins and effects of direct democratic institutions
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy offers a comprehensive and rigorous analysis of the origins and effects of popular initiatives, referenda, and other forms of direct democracy. Altman makes a compelling case, and shows that the impact of popular initiatives extends well beyond the often attention-grabbing election outcomes. Those of us who care about the fate of liberal democracy should pay close attention.' Steven Levitsky, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'Deftly combining historical case studies and broad cross-national statistical overviews, author David Altman challenges misperceptions about direct democracy and shows that it can augment representative democracy by cultivating consensus-building and increasing citizen engagement. Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy combines depth and breadth to tackle an important issue of our time and should be read by anyone interested in improving the quality of democracy around the world today.' Pamela Paxton, Linda K. George and John Wilson Professor of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin

    'David Altman's new book on direct democracy blends theoretical insights with descriptive facility, presenting a thorough analysis of the remedial properties and potentials of direct democratic institutions within the institutional framework of representative democracy. I cannot think of another scholar as well qualified as David Altman to write a book of this kind, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.' Adrian Vatter, Chair of Swiss Politics, Institute of Political Science, University of Bern

    'This precisely theorized, empirically sophisticated, and normatively attentive book is required reading for anyone interested in how and whether mechanisms of direct democracy might deepen democracy within representative political systems. Timely and important for an era in which mechanisms of direct democracy are an increasingly popular response to disillusionment with representative democracy.' Mark E. Warren, Merilees Chair for the Study of Democracy, University of British Columbia

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108496636
    • length: 276 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 29 b/w illus. 7 tables
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from October 2019
  • Table of Contents

    1. Democratic innovations for representative governments
    Part I. Origins:
    2. Breaking through: the rebirth of direct democracy in the age of the national-state
    3. Catching on: waves of adoption of citizen-initiated mechanisms of direct democracy since World War I
    Part II. Nature:
    4. Status quo bias? Political change through direct democracy
    5. Left or right? Investigating potential ideological biases in contemporary direct democracy
    Part III. Reform:
    6. Why adopt direct democracy? Much more than a simple vote
    7. How can direct democracy be improved? Citizens' commissions and citizens' counterproposals
    8. Conclusions: a new democratic equilibrium

  • Author

    David Altman, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
    David Altman is Professor of Political Science and Chair of Comparative Politics at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. His research and teaching interests lie in the field of comparative politics with an emphasis on democracy. He is the author of Direct Democracy Worldwide (Cambridge, 2011) and has twice received the Uruguayan National Prize for Political Science.

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