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Theoretical Grounding of Democratic Accountability

  • Steven G. KovenEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter describes the various permutations of democratic theory. It posits that it is necessary to first understand the virtues and limitations of democratic governance in order to understand the potential danger that bureaucratic rule poses. The chapter begins with an exposition of classical democratic theorists such as Plato and Aristotle. It then progresses to describing insights of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century contract theorists such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu. Reviews of these foundational theorists are supplemented by more contemporary students of democracy including A. D. Lindsay, Dennis Thompson, Robert Dahl, and Carole Pateman. In general, these theorists hold on to hope that the people can accurately assess their situation, can make better decisions over time, can keep officials accountable, and can wisely govern through deliberation. This sanguine view of the virtues of democracy is offset by description of the writings of those who critique the limitations of democracy. Elite theorists such as Walter Lippmann, Joseph Schumpeter, William Domhoff, and Robert Putnam present the view that the common people are unable or unwilling to govern themselves effectively. They therefore are manipulated and controlled by others who possess more resources and influence.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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