Robert A. Dahl
Narrated by Alan Sklar
Approximately 10 hours
Book published by Yale University Press
The last half of the twentieth century has been an era of democratic triumph. The main antidemocratic regimes—communist, fascist, Nazi—have disappeared, and new democracies are emerging vigorously or tentatively throughout the world. In this accessible and authoritative book, one of the most prominent political theorists of our time provides a primer on democracy that clarifies what it is, why it is valuable, how it works, and what challenges it confronts in the future.
Robert Dahl begins with an overview of the early history of democracy. He goes on to discuss differences among democracies, criteria for a democratic process, basic institutions necessary for advancing the goals of democracy, and the social and economic conditions that favor the development and maintenance of these institutions. Along the way, he illustrates his points by describing different democratic countries, explaining, for example, why India, which seems to lack most of the conditions for a stable democracy, is nevertheless able to sustain one. Dahl answers such puzzling questions as why market-capitalism can both favor and harm democracy. And he concludes by examining the major problems that democratic countries will face in the twenty-first century, problems that will arise from complexities in the economic order, from internationalization, from cultural diversity, and from the difficulty of achieving an adequate level of citizen competence.
Robert A. Dahl, Sterling Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Yale University, is also author of Who Governs?, Democracy and Its Critics, and other books.
Alan Sklar (narrator) has narrated more than a hundred audiobooks for major companies and is the winner of multiple Earphones Awards (AudioFile).
“Completely accessible, admirably succinct, intelligent, and even wise, On Democracy offers the ideal overview of the worst form of government except all others. Robert Dahl masterfully guides the general reader through a tour of the origins, ideals, actualities, and potentialities of democratic government. Even sophisticated students of democracy can learn a lot on this tour.”
—Amy Gutmann, author of Identity in Democracy, (audiobook available on this website)
“This elegantly written handbook on democracy will be widely read. It is vintage Dahl.”
—Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study
“Dahl presents a powerful overview of democracy in an astonishingly compact discussion.”
—James S. Fishkin, University of Texas at Austin
“[Dahl] moves quickly and cogently through the history of democratic ideas, the goals and essential characteristics of an ideal democracy, the political institutions vital to actual democracy, and the underlying conditions that support actual democracy’s operation and success. Market capitalism, Dahl suggests, is a two-edged sword: though it supports many elements of democracy, by generating economic (and thus political) inequality, market capitalism demands democratic regulation. Timely, thought-provoking, highly accessible analysis by a master of the subject.”
—Booklist (American Library Association)
“On Democracy is a work which ought to be read, especially by those interested in a clear, concise, and always insightful introduction to what we all too often take for granted. Democracy, as Dahl, one of the great democratic theorists of our time, often reminds us, is hard work and one of the most important aspects of that work is bringing the kind of commitments to its understanding that Dahl achieves here.”
—Alan Wolfe, Commonweal
“Dahl, this country’s leading student of democratic theory and practice, has written an eloquent and concise summary of the great issues in democratic thought.”
—G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs
“Robert Dahl has written a fine little book on his favourite subject, aimed as much at the general reader as at the student of politics.... On Democracy is a great success.”
“As one of the most impressive scholars of our time, and as the authority in the discipline, it is of great importance that Dahl offers this tract on democracy. In a style many will find accessible, Dahl focuses on the questions he has considered over his long and distinguished career.... Anyone who is a Democrat must read this book. Not only does it provide the analytical leverage for understanding the process of democratization ongoing in numerous countries, but it also turns and introspective and critical eye on the old democracies of Europe and North America.”
—Virginia Quarterly Review
“A clear, short statement of the most basic issues any thoughtful person might raise about democracy as it is practiced around the world.... Dahl has created a concise primer on democracy that can substantially inform a reader who has never thought about these questions before.... After reading this clear, basic account of how democracy should work, the shortcomings of our own system are striking.”
—Joey Fishkin, Yale Review of Books