Four Crises of Democracy: Representation, Mastery, Discipline, Anticipation
39 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2014 Last revised: 8 Nov 2015
Date Written: January 6, 2015
Prepared for the Lee Lecture in Political Science and Government, All Souls College, University of Oxford, 26 February 2015. Around the world, there is concern about the performance of democratic institutions. There have been similar "crises of democracy" in the past. But not all crises are alike. This is illustrated by American experience. Over the twentieth century, the United States suffered three distinct "crises of democracy" -- one concerned with representation within a supposedly democratic system, one with mastery of social and economic forces, and one with discipline of the state itself. Today, many Americans are debating about which of these three crises they currently confront. But the present American crisis may be a new type: a crisis of anticipation, concerned with large problems whose effects will not be fully realized for decades. Like its predecessors, this fourth crisis will generate significant changes in American political institutions and culture. Such crises show that governing institutions are more adaptable than scholarship has suggested.
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