Reconciling Democratic Theories and Realities: A Review of Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels, Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government

Reconciling Democratic Theories and Realities: A Review of Christopher H. Achen and Larry M.... ce lia pari s The argument of this book is simple: there is a near-universally accepted folk theory of what democracy is, and this theory is almost entirely wrong. The folk theory is: "Ordinary people have preferences about what their government should do. They choose leaders who will do those things, or they enact their preferences directly in referendums. In either case, what the majority wants becomes government policy" (1). Achen and Bartels convincingly argue here that every piece of this theory flies in the face of empirical evidence, and that the theory itself may have pernicious consequences. Drawing on research on the power of social identities and group attachments in politics, they then seek to offer a theory of democracy with firmer empirical footing; hence the title Democracy for Realists. This book is magisterial. Given the strong reputations of both Achen and Bartels as political scientists, and the sweeping nature of the claims made here, I suspect many scholars concerned about democracy will already be eager to read it. To any who may be less inclined to pick up a copy, let me offer some encouragement. First, some may assume there is nothing here but old news, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Good Society Penn State University Press

Reconciling Democratic Theories and Realities: A Review of Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels, Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government

The Good Society, Volume 25 (1) – May 16, 2016

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © The Pennsylvania State University.
ISSN
1538-9731
Publisher site
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Abstract

ce lia pari s The argument of this book is simple: there is a near-universally accepted folk theory of what democracy is, and this theory is almost entirely wrong. The folk theory is: "Ordinary people have preferences about what their government should do. They choose leaders who will do those things, or they enact their preferences directly in referendums. In either case, what the majority wants becomes government policy" (1). Achen and Bartels convincingly argue here that every piece of this theory flies in the face of empirical evidence, and that the theory itself may have pernicious consequences. Drawing on research on the power of social identities and group attachments in politics, they then seek to offer a theory of democracy with firmer empirical footing; hence the title Democracy for Realists. This book is magisterial. Given the strong reputations of both Achen and Bartels as political scientists, and the sweeping nature of the claims made here, I suspect many scholars concerned about democracy will already be eager to read it. To any who may be less inclined to pick up a copy, let me offer some encouragement. First, some may assume there is nothing here but old news,

Journal

The Good SocietyPenn State University Press

Published: May 16, 2016

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