Synopses & Reviews
Democracy is sold to us on its ability to deliver equal opportunity, and to give every citizen an equal voice. Yet time and again we see that this is not the case: power and spoils alike flow to the few, while the many are left with no recourse. What is wrong with democracy?
Nothing, says Roslyn Fuller: what we have simply isn’t democracy—it’s a perversion of it, created by poorly designed electoral systems, weak campaign laws, and broad limitations on participation and representation at nearly every level. Backing her argument with copious empirical data analyzing a wide variety of voting methods across twenty nations, Fuller makes her conclusion irrefutable: if we want true democracy, we have to return to the philosophical insights that originally underpinned it, and thoroughly reexamine the goals and methods of democracy and democratic participation. A radical, damning, yet at the same time fiercely hopeful work, Beasts and Gods aims to reconfigure the very foundations of modern society.
"Charles Tilly in Democracy greatly enriches the literature on transitions in and out of democracy by combining conceptual clarity with an enormously broad knowledge of comparative history, and in the process answers some key questions about the way that institutions interact with social processes."
Francis Fukuyama, Johns Hopkins University
"Tilly's trenchant new book brings his forceful insights about politics together in a cogent theory. Tilly revolts against mechanistic theories, describing democratization as an ongoing process of progress and reversal. To replace the simple recipes of the past, Tilly proposes three master processes that shape democracy: the suppression of independent powers, the elimination categorical inequality, and the integration of trust networks into the polity. In a historical tour of the last fifty years, Democracy shows that his process model works for Kazakhstan, South Africa, and beyond. Tilly has thrown down the gauntlet. It is up to the stalwarts of classical democracy theory to read and respond."
Frank Dobbin, Harvard University
"In a field teeming with first-rate scholarship, Democracy stands out as a deeply original and exciting contribution. Tilly seeks out the profoundly contentious processes that have slowly moved states along a democratic path or that have moved them -- alas, generally much more rapidly -- away from democracy. Scholars will be debating this book's provocative propositions for a long time."
John Markoff, University of Pittsburgh
"In this compelling work, Charles Tilly brings his unrivaled historical knowledge to bear on fundamental questions of democracy. His argument focuses on long-run social processes, not only those that further democratization but also those that often rapidly undermine it. In restoring the centrality of history to scholarship on democratization, he sets a research agenda that will occupy scholars for some time to come."
Elisabeth Jean Wood, Yale University and the Santa Fe Institute
"Democracy is more celebrated than understood. This inquiry by the great historical sociologist offers an important reinterpretation of the global advancement and retreat of democracy. Drawing on several decades of work on collective action in modern societies, Tilly fashions an innovative framework to track the processes of democratization and de-democratization across the centuries... This book is essential reading for those eager to see democracy spread further around the world. But its message is sobering: outsiders can make a difference, but their efforts must be aimed at strengthening the deep building blocks of open, trusting, accountable, and noncoercive societies."
"Building upon decades of pioneering work in the study of collective action, Tilly considers whether, where, and how democracy can be created - and dismantled, too. This is not a brief introduction to the concept, but an original rethinking of the contingency of democratic processes. As usual, Tilly combines an easy sense of humor with historical depth and a fearless range across cases in Europe and beyond. There is a kind of practicality about Tilly's work that makes it eminently accessible and equally essential. He shows us that social movements and the habits they foster do matter and that, in short, democracy can happen." European Studies Forum
"Tilly has written a lively and eminently readable study of democracy and democratization...In a field experiencing renewed interest in the topic of democracy, Tilly's book is a groundbreaking contribution that will no doubt attain the status of a classic."
Jose A. Aleman, Journal of Politics
"Over the years, Tilly has accumulated impressive historical and theoretical knowledge, and this new book is yet another testimony of his lasting contribution to the fields of historical, comparative, and political sociology."
Daniel Beland, Canadian Journal of Sociology
“Beast and Gods
is a timely and provocative look behind the cliches of western politics. It recognises that government of the people, by the people, is not what our current democracies feel like to most of their citizens. Fuller returns to the roots of democracy in classical republican practice and rediscovers the sources of the renewal that is urgently required. Her optimism makes this not just a challenging book but a heartening one.”
“Beasts and Gods
provides a fascinating contrast between democracy in theory and democracy in practice. It deconstructs the assumptions underlying representative democracy, and debunks the fiction that modern elections are “free and fair.” This provocative book draws on lessons from ancient Greece, while advocating direct democracy by decoupling economics from politics.”
"Every now and then modern society throws up someone who questions its most cherished myths. The how and why of it deserves a book in its own right. Fuller is one such, and in this work she takes on a holy cow, democracy, that the West loves to believe it invented (like all good things). She is a young scholar, but gifted with the right intuition, attitude, and talent to take it on, full frontal, from A to Z . As such the book is a refreshing and highly timely, tour de force, putting both conventional apologetics and hoary critiques to shame. It dares us to rethink the myth, and perhaps even to, finally, infuse some real content to it - before we are all entrapped in an irreversible oligarchy."
Charles Tilly's Democracy identifies the general processes causing democratization and de-democratization at a national level across the world over the last few hundred years. It singles out integration of trust networks into public politics, insulation of public politics from categorical inequality, and suppression of autonomous coercive power centers as crucial processes. Through analytic narratives and comparisons of multiple regimes, mostly since World War II, this book makes the case for recasting current theories of democracy, democratization, and de-democratization.
This book makes the case for recasting current theories of democracy, democratization and de-democratization.
About the Author
Charles Tilly (PhD Harvard, 1958) taught at the University of Delaware, Harvard University, the University of Toronto, the University of Michigan, and the New School for Social Research before becoming Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science at Columbia University. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has published fifty books and monographs. His recent books from Cambridge University Press include Dynamics of Contention (with Doug McAdam and Sidney Tarrow, 2001), Silence and Voice in the Study of Contentious Politics (with Ronald Aminzade and others, 2001), The Politics of Collective Violence (2003), Contention and Democracy in Europe, 1650-2000 (2004), and Trust and Rule (2005).
Table of Contents
Preface: What is Democracy?
Introduction: People Power is Born
1. The Myth of Representation
2. The Cost of Delegated Power
3. The Competition to Participate in Modern Democracies
4. The International System
5. The Civil Society Chimera
6. The Roman Republican System and the Founding Fathers of America
7. The Way Forward
8. Misinformed is Disenfranchised
9. The Tyranny of the Majority Investigated
10. Open for Business