A primer on democracy that clarifies what it is, why it is valuable, how it works, and what challenges it confronts in the future. Dahl begins with an overview of the early history of democracy, and goes on to discuss topics including differences among democracies, and favourable conditions.
The last half of the 20th century has been an era of democratic triumph. The main antidemocratic regimes - communist, fascist, Nazi - have disappeared, and new democracies are emerging vigorously or tentatively throughout the world. In this book, a prominent political theorist provides a primer on democracy that clarifies what it is, why it is valuable, how it works, and what challenges it confronts for the future. Robert Dahl begins with an overview of the early history of democracy. He goes on to discuss differences among democracies, criteria for a democratic process, basic institutions necessary for advancing the goals of democracy, and the social and economic conditions that favour the development and maintenance of these institutions. Along the way, he illustrates his points by describing different democratic countries, explaining for example, why India, which seems to lack most of the conditions for a stable democracy, is nevertheless able to sustain one. Dahl answers such questions as why market-capitalism can both favour and harm democracy. He concludes by examining the major problems that democratic countries will face in the 21st century, problems that could arise from complexities in the economic order, from internationalization, from cultural diversity, and from the difficulty of achieving an adequate level of citizen competence.
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