On Political Equality

Robert A. Dahl

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September 28, 2007
160 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
5 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300126877
Paper

Also available in:
Cloth

Robert A. Dahl, one of the world’s most influential and respected political scientists, has spent a lifetime exploring the institutions and practices of democracy in such landmark books as Who Governs?, On Democracy, and How Democratic Is the American Constitution?  Here, Dahl looks at the fundamental issue of equality and how and why governments have fallen short of their democratic ideals. 

At the center of the book is the question of whether the goal of political equality is so far beyond our human limits that it should be abandoned in favor of more attainable ends, or if there are ways to realistically address and reduce inequities. Though complete equality is unattainable, Dahl argues that strides toward that ideal are both desirable and feasible. He shows the remarkable shift in recent centuries toward democracy and political equality the world over. He explores the growth of democratic institutions, the expansion of citizenship, and the various obstacles that stand in the way of gains in political equality. Dahl also looks at the motives, particularly those of emotion and reason, that play such a crucial role in the struggle for equality.  

In conclusion, Dahl assesses the contemporary political landscape in the United States. He looks at the likelihood of political inequality increasing, and poses one scenario in which Americans grow more unequal in their influence over their government. The counter scenario foresees a cultural shift in which citizens, rejecting what Dahl calls “competitive consumerism,” invest time and energy in civic action and work to reduce the inequality that now exists among Americans.

Robert A. Dahl is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Yale University. He lives in North Haven, CT.

"On Political Equality has all of  the earmarks of a book by Robert A. Dahl—sharp edged reasoning, unfolding logic, and lucid writing."—Fred Greenstein, Princeton University

"On Political Equality is notable for its clarity and simplicity, but don't be fooled—it asks one of the most difficult questions a nation can face: should we strive for more political equality over the coming century despite the controversy that will ensue? Dahl answers with a resounding yes, and shows why almost any effort is worth the cost."—Jennifer L. Hochschild, Harvard University

"This is a tiny book, 120 small pages of text; mild mannered, careful and balanced, but in the end disturbing."---Stein Ringen, Times Literary Supplement

“Dahl’s analysis of obstacles to political equality is essential for understanding modern democracy. . . . This book continues Dahl’s long-standing engagement with the shortcomings of contemporary democracy, especially in the U.S. . . . It addresses the core concerns surrounding political equality today. Students will deeply appreciate this book. Highly recommended.”—Choice

Selected as a 2007 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title from 2007
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