cover of book

Dividing the Rulers: How Majority Cycling Saves Democracy
by Yuhui Li
University of Michigan Press, 2019
Cloth: 978-0-472-13152-5 | eISBN: 978-0-472-12592-0
Library of Congress Classification JF1051.L5 2019
Dewey Decimal Classification 321.8


The election of populist politicians in recent years seems to challenge the commitment to democracy, if not its ideal. This book argues that majority rule is not the problem; rather, the institutions that stabilize majorities are responsible for the suppression of minority interests. Despite the popular notion that social choice instability (or “cycling”) makes it impossible for majorities to make sound legislation, Yuhui Li argues that the best part of democracy is not the large number of people on the winning side; it is that the winners can be easily divided and realigned with the losers in the cycling process. He shows that minorities’ bargaining power depends on their ability to exploit division within the winning coalition and induce its members to defect, an institutionalized uncertainty that is missing in one-party authoritarian systems.

Dividing the Rulers theorizes why such division within the majority is important and what kind of institutional features can help a democratic system maintain such division, which is crucial in preventing the “tyranny of the majority.” These institutional solutions point to a direction of institutional reform that academics, politicians, and voters should collectively pursue.

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