"...brilliant introduction." - New Statesman and Society
"From start to finish, Arblaster's book is stimulating and highly readable." - Times Higher Educational Supplement
"...an ideal first book to place in the hands of a student embarking on the study of democracy." - Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics
Anthony Arblaster looks first at the history of both the theory and practice of democracy, and the fierce opposition it has often provoked, showing how the representative version of democracy we are now familiar with was a relatively late arrival on the scene. He finds the core of the idea of democracy in the notion of popular power, and in the second part of the book he explores the meaning of this and the problems it involves.
Drawing on the classic writings of Rousseau, Paine and John Stuart Mill, he shows how wide the gap is between their vision of a fully democratic society and the limited realities of the Western democracies of today. Democracy, he argues, remains a relevant ideal and a challenge to much conventional political thinking, as well as to the centralizing tendencies of global power.
Part one: History
The invention of democracy
The re-emergence of democracy
Part two: Ideas
Government by the people
Majority rule and its problems
Equality and the general interest
Representation and 'direct' democracy
Consent, freedom and debate