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Character of Democracy How Institutions Shape Politics

ISBN-10: 0199945462

ISBN-13: 9780199945467

Edition: 2014

Authors: Richard A. Clucas, Melody Ellis Valdini

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The Character of Democracy offers the broadest overview of any book on the market of the democratic governing institutions found around the world, which makes it an ideal choice for use in advanced courses on comparative politics and/or democratic institutions. The book provides detailed information on legislative electoral systems, party systems, presidential and parliamentary government, legislatures, federalism, constitutional courts, and other democratic institutions. Each democratic institution is taken up in a separate chapter, which provides instructors with separate readings for multiple weeks in the quarter or semester. Moreover, each chapter provides a strong overview of the literature related to that democratic institution, describes variations in how the institution is structured around the world, and explains why these variations are important to how democratic political systems work. Thus the book not only provides breadth in examining democratic institutions, but also a detailed understanding of each of these institutions.The argument presented in the book lends itself especially well to classroom discussion. The book argues that there is no one best form of democratic government, but that different institutional designs tend to promote different democratic values. In the first chapter, the book presents five broad categories of democratic ideals that reflect the consent of the governed in democracies: meaningful elections, fair representation, accountability, majority rule and minority rights, and the functionality of the state. In each subsequent chapter, the book explains how well different institutional designs live up to these democratic ideals. The use of these democratic ideals provides a means for students to assess different democratic structures and a focal point for classroom discussion and debate. The question that can be repeatedly raised in class is why should a country prefer a particular democratic design over another? (Alternatively, the instructor could rephrase this question in a way that allows students to argue why they would personally prefer one type of democratic structure over another.) Moreover, what makes this book valuable for classroom use is that it engages so many different ideals from democratic theory. There is no other book on the market that examines democratic structures by looking at them from so many democratic perspectives. The most popular competitor (Arend Lijphart's Patterns of Democracy) to this book only addresses two ideals.Rather than take a normative stance, the book provides an analytical and scholarly approach, which will likely be appealing to many instructors. The problem with a normative approach is that it can turn off some instructors who disagree with the normative argument or who want to emphasize scholarship in the classroom. While the book does offer an argument about democratic structures, it does not advocate for one particular democratic design, as some books do. Rather, the argument focuses attention on how institutional designs affect democracy in complex, multi-faceted ways. The only other book currently on the market that offers such a close and detailed institutional analysis (Patterns of Democracy) takes a clear normative stance that favors certain types of democracies over others.The book provides in-depth examples from six case studies from around the globe, which enables students to build a substantial understanding of these states as they learn about the research on institutional design. The choice of six states allows the book to provide greater detail than if it offered more case studies, yet there is still a large enough number of cases to provide valuable illustrations of the different ways in a democracy can be organized. Moreover, the states are drawn from around the world to emphasize that this is a comparative book and not simply one that focuses on one particular region of the world. While the focus of the book is on democratic institutions, many of the instructors who teach classes on this topic have expertise in particular regions of the world. The global focus of the book should thus make it appealing to instructors from a wider range of area expertise, rather than just appealing to scholars who primarily study European or Latin American or Asian politics.
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Book details

Copyright year: 2014
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 1/17/2014
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 312
Size: 6.10" wide x 9.09" long x 0.71" tall
Weight: 1.188
Language: English