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Case
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Reference no. 797-005-1
Published in: 1997
Length: 18 pages

Abstract

This case can stand on its own or may be used as a follow on to ''What is Democracy'' (797-002-1). Is democracy possible? This question goes beyond meanings and definitions of democracy which were the central concerns of ''What is Democracy?'' (797-002-1). The same group of students take their discussion further by looking at twentieth century theorists who have raised important questions about the actual practice and possibilities of democracy. The theorists are Michels, Schumpeter, Dahl and Arrow. In discussing the variety of objections to "idealist" or normative conceptions of democracy raised by these theorists, the group of students struggles to answer the question "is democracy possible?". At the end of the case, students are required to focus on key issues of contemporary political analysis, especially those arising from the problems of mass participation in democratic decision-making. The case is well suited to introductory courses in politics but also to more specialist courses on empirical democratic theory. Despite the complexity of material, it is probably possible to use this case in a one two-hour seminar. However, the richness of the arguments advanced by the theorists would certainly provide enough material to last two seminars, at least, if taken in conjunction with additional reading of relevant texts and commentaries. It will suit students coming to Politics for the first time as well as constituting part of a more advanced course on democracy or democratic theory. As in the first case on democracy, ''What is Democracy?'' (797-002-1), discussion can easily go off at tangents. Hence, again, experience suggests that discussion is best kept focused where a tutor is present, or, ideally, where one of the group acts as chairperson with the specific function of keeping students to the questions.

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Abstract

This case can stand on its own or may be used as a follow on to ''What is Democracy'' (797-002-1). Is democracy possible? This question goes beyond meanings and definitions of democracy which were the central concerns of ''What is Democracy?'' (797-002-1). The same group of students take their discussion further by looking at twentieth century theorists who have raised important questions about the actual practice and possibilities of democracy. The theorists are Michels, Schumpeter, Dahl and Arrow. In discussing the variety of objections to "idealist" or normative conceptions of democracy raised by these theorists, the group of students struggles to answer the question "is democracy possible?". At the end of the case, students are required to focus on key issues of contemporary political analysis, especially those arising from the problems of mass participation in democratic decision-making. The case is well suited to introductory courses in politics but also to more specialist courses on empirical democratic theory. Despite the complexity of material, it is probably possible to use this case in a one two-hour seminar. However, the richness of the arguments advanced by the theorists would certainly provide enough material to last two seminars, at least, if taken in conjunction with additional reading of relevant texts and commentaries. It will suit students coming to Politics for the first time as well as constituting part of a more advanced course on democracy or democratic theory. As in the first case on democracy, ''What is Democracy?'' (797-002-1), discussion can easily go off at tangents. Hence, again, experience suggests that discussion is best kept focused where a tutor is present, or, ideally, where one of the group acts as chairperson with the specific function of keeping students to the questions.

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