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Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions

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 In this book, a leading scholar of comparative politics explores elections as instruments of democracy. Focusing on elections in twenty democracies over the past quarter century, G. Bingham Powell, Jr., examines the differences between two great visions of democracy—the majoritarian vision, in which citizens use the election process to choose decisively between two compet  In this book, a leading scholar of comparative politics explores elections as instruments of democracy. Focusing on elections in twenty democracies over the past quarter century, G. Bingham Powell, Jr., examines the differences between two great visions of democracy—the majoritarian vision, in which citizens use the election process to choose decisively between two competing teams of policymakers, providing the winner with the concentrated power to make public policy; and the proportional influence vision, in which citizens use elections to choose political agents to represent their views in postelection bargaining, thereby dispersing power. Powell asks crucial questions for modern democracies: Which vision best serves as an instrument of democracy? What are the reasons and conditions under which each vision succeeds or fails? Careful analyses of more than 150 democratic elections show that each vision succeeds fairly well on its own terms in responsively linking election outcomes to policymaker selection, although advantages and limitations must be traded off. However, Powell concludes, the proportional influence vision and its designs enjoy a clear advantage in creating policy congruence between citizens and their policymakers—a finding that should give pause to those who are attracted to the idea of the decisive election as a direct tool for citizen control.


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 In this book, a leading scholar of comparative politics explores elections as instruments of democracy. Focusing on elections in twenty democracies over the past quarter century, G. Bingham Powell, Jr., examines the differences between two great visions of democracy—the majoritarian vision, in which citizens use the election process to choose decisively between two compet  In this book, a leading scholar of comparative politics explores elections as instruments of democracy. Focusing on elections in twenty democracies over the past quarter century, G. Bingham Powell, Jr., examines the differences between two great visions of democracy—the majoritarian vision, in which citizens use the election process to choose decisively between two competing teams of policymakers, providing the winner with the concentrated power to make public policy; and the proportional influence vision, in which citizens use elections to choose political agents to represent their views in postelection bargaining, thereby dispersing power. Powell asks crucial questions for modern democracies: Which vision best serves as an instrument of democracy? What are the reasons and conditions under which each vision succeeds or fails? Careful analyses of more than 150 democratic elections show that each vision succeeds fairly well on its own terms in responsively linking election outcomes to policymaker selection, although advantages and limitations must be traded off. However, Powell concludes, the proportional influence vision and its designs enjoy a clear advantage in creating policy congruence between citizens and their policymakers—a finding that should give pause to those who are attracted to the idea of the decisive election as a direct tool for citizen control.

37 review for Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robert Høgh

    Skelner mellem majoritarian og proportional democracy og siger, at vælgere stemmer enten med henblik på politikeres tidligere performance eller deres forventninger fremover. Deler op i firefeltet matrix

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Griswold

    G. Bingham Powell in Elections as Instruments of Democracy has written a book evaluating the majoritarian and proportional visions of democracy. For political science people who’ve read hundreds of papers evaluating the two visions, a scream may go up. Using 150 or so elections in twenty established democracy, he tests which version of democracy creates greater congruence between citizens and policymakers and finds that proportional systems do a better job than their majoritarian counter-parts. G. Bingham Powell in Elections as Instruments of Democracy has written a book evaluating the majoritarian and proportional visions of democracy. For political science people who’ve read hundreds of papers evaluating the two visions, a scream may go up. Using 150 or so elections in twenty established democracy, he tests which version of democracy creates greater congruence between citizens and policymakers and finds that proportional systems do a better job than their majoritarian counter-parts. Which may explain why in recent years, the few majoritarian countries remaining have loosened the majoritarian nature of their electoral rules. This was definitely written for the political science crowd, but it does bring to mind interesting questions that the person on the street needs to ask such as: “What does this mean for the functioning of democracy”? or Does this offer explanation for the current discontent many democratic polities have for their elected representatives? Instruments of Democracy contains fairly simply written ideas that should provoke thoughtful conversations about fundamental issues of democracy.

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