¹ 5 - 2001
Shapiro I.

Rethinking Democratic Theory in the Face of Contemporary Politics

Having substantiated, in the first part of the article, the indispensability of the democratic theory tradition that identifies democracy’s aim with securing legitimate management of power relations on the basis of electoral competition; having then analyzed, in the second part, comparative merits of different electoral systems as engineering devices to promote democracy under different socio-historical conditions, - the author now turns to problems of democracy’s durability and consistency. Whereas transitions to democracy, the author notes in the third part, can occur in improbable settings and this can be by one of several possible routes, the problem of whether democracy, however instituted, is likely to survive, is more consequential, though there is little accumulated knowledge on this in political science. The absence of severe poverty and the presence of economic growth seem to help. But there is obvious lack of literature on which institutional and cultural factors are more and less conducive to democratic political stability. In the concluding fourth part, the author turns to the problems of avoiding perverse consequences of democratic procedure that arise when acting on one democratic imperative undermines another (the most noticeable of such imperatives being, e.g., those of majority rule and of avoiding domination). The correcting function of the second-guessing institutions, first of all, constitutional courts, is revealed as far from purely formal job.