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POLI 365 - Lecture: Dahl (Mar. 11)

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Political Science
POLI 365
Jason Scott Ferrell

March 11 – Dahl − political theory should be able to be empirically tested − famous for two things: − critical analysis of traditional democratic theory − articulates his own conception of democracy: polyarchy Madisonian Democracy − form of democracy tied to the Federalist Papers − refers to classical liberal theory of democracy, and actual practice of democracy in the context of the U.S. − suggests two things: − theory is too vague or opaque to be viable as a theory − actual practice of Madisonian democracy shows how poor a theory it actually is − inadequacies of Madisonian theory 'papered over' by actual practice in U.S. − four definitions of Madisonian democracy (32-33) − tyranny involves the accumulation of power in the hands of a faction − appropriate institutional checks and balances will preclude tyranny, and offset factionalism − Dahl says the definitions of tyranny and faction given by Madison are inadequate − thus, his belief that institutional checks and balances will work is misplaced − assertion that accumulation of power automatically entails tyranny is not factually true − Madison's conception is circular − Madison's idea of faction cannot account for majority faction, which is what federalist is concerned about − Madison's attempt to diffuse majority faction through federal institution is an argument aimed at any majority, not simply a faction; this makes the latter definition meaningless − there is no valid way to determine what a majority faction is − thus, 'faction' cannot be operationalized − concept of 'rights' that this requires is too indeterminate − allowing majority to establish rights would defeat purpose of protecting against tyranny of the majority − accumulation of power in one branch of government does not necessarily lead to tyranny: case in point, Britain − Madison also overlooks political abuses of power (ex. manipulation of electoral processes) − attempt to deal with tyranny through institutional arrangements does not work − politicians are selfish, and try to assert themselves when they can − this is what institutions should control (second axiom, 8) − institutional mechanism for this tendency towards selfishness requires reciprocal control of leaders − however, Dahl points out that this reciprocal control isn't necessarily provided by th
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