1st Edition

Democracy in Theory and Practice

By Frederick G. Whelan Copyright 2019
    692 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    692 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Democracy in Theory and Practice presents an authoritative overview of democratic theory today. Its distinctive approach links theory to practice, emphasizing the wide variety of institutions and procedures through which core democratic principles are implemented and the normative and practical dimensions of the choices to be made among these alternatives.

    Designed for courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level, the book features eighteen chapters organized thematically and divided into sections and subsections for easy reference; historical and current examples, citations for specific ideas, annotated references, and further readings throughout enhance the volume's utility for students, scholars, and researchers. Sidebars give biographical sketches of classic theorists and democratic ideas from the US founders and constitutional tradition.

    Featured topics discussed include:

    • Majority Rule; Participation; Deliberation; Accountability; Representation; Constitutionalism; Electoral Laws; Parties; Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Functions.
    • The Boundary Problem; The "All-Affected" Principle; Contested Senses of Liberal and Procedural Democracy; The Pros and Cons of Term Limits; Proportional Representation; Referendums; Problems of Democratic Transparency and Reversibility.

    Written by a leading authority in the field, Frederick G. Whelan encourages us to think of the many alternative ways of putting democracy into practice and of these alternatives as requiring choices. This diversity means that there is no unique or correct democratic outcome from a given set of preferences, since outcomes are shaped by the methods followed in reaching them.

    1. Introduction

    2. Democratic Principles

    3. Democracy and Other Values

    4. The Right to Vote

    5. Issues in Democratic Voting

    6. Voting and Decision Methods

    7. Participation and Democracy

    8. Direct and Formative Democracy

    9. Communication and Deliberation

    10. Accountability and Representation

    11. The Representation of Interests

    12. Constitutionalism

    13. Forms of Democratic Government

    14. Electoral Systems, Parties, and Party Government

    15. Legislatures

    16. Additional Principles of Democratic Governance

    17. The Executive Power

    18. The Judicial Power


    Frederick G. Whelan is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh, where he taught historical and democratic political theory.

    'Whelan has written one of the most comprehensive guides to democratic theory ever produced. The range of topics that are covered is extraordinary, and Whelan’s focus on the practice of democracy, as well as the theory, grounds the whole discussion in the real world of politics. The book will be an indispensable guide to students and scholars alike.'Andrew Valls, Associate Professor of Political Science, Oregon State University

    'This is just what we needed: A comprehensive, judicious, and analytically precise introduction to the core values and institutions of democracy for classroom use. Democratic theorists - and their students - owe Frederick Whelan a tremendous debt of gratitude.'Melissa Ann Schwartzberg, Silver Professor of Politics, New York University

    'Many books of democratic theory seek to vindicate one ideal of democracy in contrast to others. Whelan’s approach is very different. Starting with the institutions and procedures of actual democracies, Democracy in Theory and Practice seeks to explain how different ways of structuring our collective choices have developed, which values each can be seen to embody, and why each choice of an institution or structured practice is likely to systematically further some goals or values at the expense of others. Drawing on a lifetime of teaching and scholarship, Whelan covers a vast range of subjects, including many that normative theorists of democracy typically neglect (e.g. executive leadership, electoral and party systems, problems of representation and accountability, and tensions between democracy and bureaucracy). His realistic approach, constantly attuned to necessary tradeoffs and historical experience, allows him to build bridges—as used to be common but is now, alas, rare—among political theory, empirical political science, and comparative political history. The resulting work is unique in the field. Sober, erudite, judicious, and comprehensive, this will be both a fine resource for new students of democracy and an excellent reference work for experienced scholars.'Andrew Sabl, University of Toronto