The early chapters of Robert Dahl’s “Preface to democratic theory” contend with Madison’s theory on democracy with regards protection of minority interest against the majority to avoid tyranny. Ultimately, Dahl believes Madison was wrong and undemocratic in his proposed solutions to the problems.
Onward, Dahl begins to share his views and opinions on democracy in the United States examining two democratic theories; Madisonian and populistic democracy; Dahl argues that these two systems no longer explain how modern democracy worked. He however describes democracy in the United States as Polyarchy advocating that this best fits modern democracy and the specificity of the American political system. In his view, social checks are much more important than the institutional check proposed by James Madison and believes that no institution or the constitution itself can create a republic that is void of tyranny.
Dahl, in expressing his views on democracy posits that there are certain circumstances, characteristics and pre-conditions that allow democracy to succeed. While in circumstances where two groups hold equally strong opinions and have contrasting beliefs, the constitution has no answer to this problem. What Dahl attempts to clarify here is the idea that in policymaking; there are decisions that an overwhelming majority would agree to likewise in other cases whereby there’s an even split view on an issue. For example; the discourse on the abolition of slavery which ultimately led to the American civil war, Dahl posits that no institutional checks or democratic procedure can be used to solve these types of situations. Dahl, therefore, assumes a position that the success of democracy in the United States can be attached to the fact that there’s a common consensus on important American issues so most of the policies made often reflect public interest. “With such a consensus the disputes over policy alternatives that have already been winnowed down to those within the broad area of basic agreement” (pp; 133)
Schttschneider in “The semi-sovereign people” begins by explaining his perspective on scope and conflict, he explicates that there’ll always be conflict in politics as he sees conflict as part and parcel of politics and that the outcome of any conflict depends to a large extent on how invested and active the public is in the situation; thus, he likened pressure groups to being small-scale sects while the political parties as main players. He explains that placing emphasis on political parties and the party system would ultimately give the semi-sovereign people the best opportunity to reflect their views and beliefs in the public domain because ultimately these pressure groups have special interest and are not universal by any means therefore aren’t open to everyone to participate. The interests of pressure groups can be easily hijacked by the elites therefore reflecting their interest more and not that of the general public.
He goes further to explain that political organizations in form of political parties can cover for these lapses and provide better opportunities for the public.
Schttschneider, criticizes the populist view made by Dahl. He explains that not everyone who participates in the political sphere has the greatest need, citing abstention demonstrate is a suppression of stance and we cannot attribute,
He believes it’s unfair to characterize the failures of democracy in America to foolishness, ignorance and illiteracy on the part of the public, likewise there shouldn’t be any form of litmus test in place to qualify citizens for democratic participation, seeing that such assertion is not tenable.
Putnam in the book “Bowling alone” examines a significant decline in social capital in the United States from the 1960’s. Giving evidence provided from Theda Skocpol’s “Diminished Democracy” which firstly doesn’t dispute the fact that there has been a decline in social capital in America from the 1960’s. secondly, agrees to the primary reasons put forward by Putnam as the raison deter for the decline of social capital, considering Skocpol’s argument on the subject matter, I agree with Putnam’s argument on the subject matter. NOTE: The premise established isn’t to say, Skocpol agrees with every of Putnam arguments concerning the subject matter, rather it’s safe to say she disputes Putnam’s narrow analysis of the subject matter for the decline of social capital because she believes that a number of other variables, “institutional” and “social” can be associated to the decline of social capital and civic engagement in American public sphere. On that note; still, I agree with Putnam arguments on the subject matter.
Putnam in examining the decline of social capital attaches different variables that in one way or the other subsequently led to the decline of civic participation in the American public sphere and they include: time constrains, evolution of technology, generational substitution and the relatively high rate of mobility amongst Americans, change in American family structures, race. However, not to dispute these factors, Putnam associates two variables which he believes are primarily responsible for the decline of social capital in the society: electronic recreation and generational replacement.
Skocpol on the other hand considers some of these factors dismissed by Putnam to be a lot more important to the decline of social engagement in the public domain than Putnam admit. For example: in discussing race as a factor for the decline of social capital, Putnam establishes that racism cannot be considered as a fundamental variable for the decline in civic participation. establishing as it was written in the book, staunch racism still exist in American public sphere and even if the successes made by the civil rights movements were overturned it still wouldn’t affect the decline in civic participation.
Skocpol on the other hand examines race. Skocpol finds that early American civic organization membership were attained along racial lines and with the amount of success the civil rights movements was able to accomplish in the 1960’s, it made racial integration an important aspect of civic engagement citing that the existing status quo was shaken, many organizations couldn’t come to terms with the new norm in the society and this diminished social participation in the 1960’s and 1970’s in America.
Putman primarily associates generational replacement and electronic recreation to the decline of social capital and civic participation in the public sphere. Putman believes technology, electronic entertainment; television especially overtime disengaged Americans from civic participation, the more time Americans spent in front of bright screens was at the jeopardy of civic participation. This is a fact Skocpol doesn’t dispute, she laments the replacement of grass root mobilization for television ads and unnamed phone chats and believes that people are more likely to participate socially and politically more from face to face communication. Putnam also shares the same view on this, as he posits that electronic engagement has taken the place of civic engagement.
In explaining generational succession, Putnam tags it the most significant variable to the decline of social capital, explicating that younger generations were less interested and involved with civic participation, as the succession of a more civilly engaged generations by a lesser one fundamentally led to the decline of civic participation in American society. I believe Skocpol’s hypothesis on increased educational attainment in American society can be used as a good example to further buttress this point: Skocpol posits that as education levels increased; college educated Americans were less likely to participate civilly. (Skocpol; 186 see Fig 5.1)
Skocpol’s position on the increasing decline of interest in military service in America, in a broad view can equally be viewed under generational replacement. Skocpol notes that since the 1960’s excitement for military service has slowly faded; citing that in the early years of the twentieth century over two third of Americans served in the military but from the 1960’s the numbers have dropped drastically and the less civilly engaged younger generation do not see the military as appealing as their fathers and grandfathers did (183-184).
Putnam and skocpol had relatively diverse and different solutions to the problem of decline of social capital and civic engagement. However, of all the solutions put forward by the two scholars, relating it to present day society. the need for grassroots mobilization and organizational structures are extremely important to civic participation. The effectiveness of grassroots mobilization cannot be overly emphasized and can be attached fundamentally to the success of the New Christian rights. It’s important to understand that both Putnam and Skocpol decry the need for increased grassroots mobilization. For one, grassroots mobilization is a proven solution to getting people civilly engaged in American public sphere; this is frequently used by the religious right, a group Skocpol praises in Chapter 7 (266). This of the solutions is the one I find compatible with people from all works of life, as people tend to civilly participate more socially and politically upon person to person contact.
Putnam and Skocpol also agree that creating new organizations and associations will get people involved again. Putnam argues that society can follow this example to right the problem of declining social capital in the United States.
King, Keohane and Verba “Designing Social Inquiry” basically, propose scientific inference in social science research, they talk about how infusing quantitative analysis in social science research helps the research better. They propose a number of quantitative measures that aid this issue.
Robert Dahl’s “A Preface to Democratic Theory” of all the books probably is the one that most encompasses a lot of the approach put forward by KKV. Dahl explicates that he attempts to use maximizing theory or establish an ethically neutral theory or a non-operational theory
Dahl deviates from the routine prerequisite of a social science research. A preface to democratic theory had a lot of scientific inference in its analysis from his use of maximizing theory to depending a lot on numerical measurements including some mathematical explanations of the analysis dahl in a number of ways followed the KKV way of social science research. KKV in “Designing social inquiry” explain that some researchers are of the opinion that statistical analysis is the only way to truth in the social sciences. With the manner in which Robert dahl conducts is analysis on the subject matter, he can to a large extent be grouped under this group of researchers KKV talks about.
“Bowling alone” Putnam utilizes a lot of survey research in pushing is viewpoint on the subject matter. Putnam methodology used in the book can be considered a typical social science research with little or no scientific inference in his analysis of the problem. The methodology used in “Bowling alone” point largely to a qualitative analysis.
Theda Skocpol “Diminished Democracy” was the final book studied this semester. Skocpol records that her methodology or approach to the subject matter is largely historical, in her attempt to examine both institutional and social reasons for the decline of social capital, Skocpol in her analysis she takes an in depth look at social and political conditions in United States from a historical and institutional perspective. With barely infusing any of the concepts put forward by KKV all this points to the fact that diminished democracy is qualitative analysis with little or no scientific inference. Skocpol justifies her historical approach to the subject matter by insisting that in order to have a firm understanding of the reasons behind the decline in civic engagement history matters.