A Preface to Democratic Theory explores some problems left unsolved by traditional democratic theory, Professor Dahl examines two influential "model" theories—the Madisonian, representing the prevailing American doctrine, and its recurring challenger, the populistic theory—and argues that they no longer explain how modern democracies operate. He then constructs a model more consistent with modern political science, and, in doing so, develops some unique views of popular sovereignty and the American constitutional system.
"A Preface to Democratic Theory is well worth the devoted attention of anyone who cares about democracy. For it will have an important influence on both theory about democracy and on actual practice in democracies round the world."—Bernard Barber, Political Science Quarterly
"The book is a must for democratic theorists."—J. Roland Pennock, Journal of Politics
Robert Dahl’s Preface helped launch democratic theory fifty years ago as a new area of study in political science, and it remains the standard introduction to the field. Exploring problems that had been left unsolved by traditional thought on democracy, Dahl here examines two influential models—the Madisonian, which represents prevailing American doctrine, and its recurring challenger, populist theory—arguing that they do not accurately portray how modern democracies operate. He then constructs a model more consistent with how contemporary democracies actually function, and, in doing so, develops some original views of popular sovereignty and the American constitutional system.
For this fiftieth-anniversary edition, Dahl has written an extensive new afterword that reevaluates Madisonian theory in light of recent research. And in a new foreword, he reflects back on his influential volume and the ways his views have evolved since he wrote it. For any student or scholar of political science, this new material is an essential update on a gold standard in the evolving field of democratic theory.
“A Preface to Democratic Theory is well worth the devoted attention of anyone who cares about democracy.”—Political Science Quarterly