As is now well known, U.S. income inequality has grown dramatically over the past forty years. Less well appreciated is that there have been two distinct phases in the evolution of the income distribution. The first phase from the 1970s through the mid to late 1990s involved widening income gaps between skilled and unskilled workers and an […]
Can representative democracies be strengthened to govern more effectively? The SSRC’s Anxieties of Democracy program is motivated by a concern about whether the core institutions of established democracies can capably address large problems in the public interest. The Inaugural Democracy Papers were produced as part of the planning process for the Anxieties of Democracy program at the Social Science Research Council. The authors are leading scholars of democracy, both in the United States and abroad. Several of the authors are now members of Anxieties of Democracy working groups and advisory committee.
If you enjoy these essays, you may also like the more recent Democracy Papers collection published on Items. The Democracy Papers collection features essays that summarize and highlight research presented at workshops and conferences affiliated with the Anxieties of Democracy program.
These days, everyone seems anxious about Congress. Rarely does a news cycle pass without new stories of political dysfunction in Washington, DC. New reports of stalemates, fiscal cliffs, and failed grand bargains have begun to erode the public confidence in the ability of our representative institutions to govern effectively. In May 2013, only one in […]
Generally speaking, being democratic means respecting and responding to the real views of real people, regardless of what those views are. People can figure out for themselves what their anxieties are and what the challenges to America are. Some people worry about high taxes, others about lean government services. Some worry about regimentation by government […]
The current crisis of democracy has many causes. The one I discuss here is the inability of our democratic institutions—and our understanding of those institutions—to keep up with our collective needs. I first argue that the primary purpose of government is to create legitimate coercion in order to solve the collective action problems caused by […]
1. In Latin America, the institutions of representative democracy have only very rarely been robust enough to successfully represent society. From these institutions’ inception as republics, the capitalist economy of Latin America was insufficiently dynamic to be able to absorb significant portions of the population. The proportional prominence of peasantries and ‘informal economies’ meant that there […]
Why is Congress so helpless and so hopeless? We’ve heard all the fashionable explanations: partisan gridlock; special interests and the impact of their campaign contributions; gerrymandered House districts; an excessively partisan president; a benighted Republican Party dominated by Tea Party radicals. But the real cause is deeper: Congress is a human institution with a distinct […]
Representative democracy is a matrix that engenders and sustains five connected, but distinct, principles of modern government: Popular sovereignty: citizens have a political voice, and their interests and preferences are reflected in leadership and policy. Equality: the mechanisms of representative democracy are formally equal, or reflect a principle of equality—one person, one vote. Legitimacy: the principles of popular […]
How can representative governments promote gender justice in advanced democracies and make headway against the pervasive subjugation of women in emerging ones? What is the likelihood that such issues will be addressed and adequately resolved? What type of research would help the process? 1. The subjugation of women in the Global South is the moral […]
When election law scholars think about the right to vote, we often divide it into four parts. The first is the right of participation, which involves the right to cast a ballot. The second is the right of expressive association, which concerns the ability of voters to express preferences for parties and candidates they prefer […]
In 1964, as it entered the modern era of judicial review of the political process, the U.S. Supreme Court proclaimed that its constitutional objective was to provide each citizen a fair and equal opportunity for political participation. As framed by the Court, “representative government is in essence self-government through the medium of elected representatives of […]