Vital Democracy: A Theory of Democracy in Action

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9780199572786: Vital Democracy: A Theory of Democracy in Action

Vital Democracy outlines a theory of democracy in action, based on four elementary forms of democracy--pendulum, consensus, voter and participatory democracy--that are thoroughly analyzed, compared and related to both the literature and the real world of democracy. Just like a few primary colors produce an array of shades, a few basic models of democracy appear, the author argues, to constitute a wide range of democratic variants in real life.

Focusing on tried and tested democratic institutions, Frank Hendriks shows that the four models of democracy--with their divergent patterns of leadership, citizenship and governance, their inherent strengths and weaknesses--are never purely instantiated. He argues that wherever democracy is practiced with some level of success, it is always as hybrid democracy, thereby challenging those democratic reformers and theorists that have inspired the quest for democratic purity.

Vital Democracy builds on Arend Lijphart's well-known work which distinguishes between majoritarian and consensual democratic countries but also goes well beyond it, urging attention to non-national, non-formal, and non-representative expressions of democracy as well.

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About the Author:

Frank Hendriks is Professor of Comparative Governance at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. He deals with cross-border comparison of policies and governance systems, including the comparative analysis of democratic and decisionmaking models at the national and the subnational level.


In a highly innovative fashion, Frank Hendriks juxtaposes the majoritarian-consensus distinction that I use in Patterns of Democracy with the direct-indirect distinction, which has been known in political science for a long time but which has rarely been used in a systematic way. The result is a parsimonious two-by-two matrix, which is completely original and which works very well for his comparative analysis. Variants of direct democracyof both the push-button type and the deliberative kind, which have been attracting a lot of attention in recent yearsare drawn into the comparative picture together with variants of representative democracy. The book concludes with some insightful perspectives on democratic reform, arguing persuasively in favor of contextually sensitive mixtures of models and against the one-best-model approach. A wonderful book. Compulsory reading for all those talking about democracy. * Arend Lijphart, University of California, San Diego * For those who are involved in research and in teaching public administration (broadly defined), Hendriks has provided an accessible route into an important debate that has been badly neglected by the hegemony of those in the discipline who prefer a more economic or managerialist approach. With easy to follow diagrams and tables to explain the more theoretically complicated sections, it covers complex debates without obfuscation. This book should be included on the reading list for both advanced undergraduate programmes and for specialist postgraduate students. * Josie Kelly, Public Administration *

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