The political discontent or malaise that typifies most modern democracies is mainly caused by the widely shared feeling that the political freedom of citizens to influence the development of their society and, related to this, their personal life, has become rather limited.
We can only address this discontent when we rehabilitate politics, the deliberate, joint effort to give direction to society and to make the best of ourselves.
In Pluralism, Democracy and Political Knowledge, Hans Blokland examines this challenge via a critical appraisal of the pluralist conception of politics and democracy.
This conception was formulated by, above all, Robert A. Dahl, one of the most important political scholars and democratic theorists of the last half century.
Taking his work as the point of reference, this book not only provides an illuminating history of political science, told via Dahl and his critics.
It also offers a revealing analysis as to what progress we have made in our thinking on pluralism and democracy, and what progress we could make, given the epistemological constraints of the social sciences.
Above and beyond this, the development and the problems of pluralism and democracy are explored in the context of the process of modernization.
The author specifically discusses the extent to which individualization, differentiation and rationalization contribute to the current political malaise in those countries which adhere to a pluralist political system.
Contents: Preface; Introduction; An American preamble; Foreign policy and political competence; A common point of departure; The behaviorist mood; A logical analysis of polyarchy; Empirical research on polyarchy; Arguments in defense of democratic participation; Power and powerlessness under polyarchy; Epistemological reservations; Modern political science and rationalization; Modern and old-fashioned politics; Bibliography; Index.
About the Author: Hans Blokland is Professor at the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany. He has held teaching positions at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Utrecht University. He was visiting scholar at Yale University and Manchester University and fellow of the Royal Netherlands Academy of the Arts and Sciences. His work was awarded, among others, the Pieter de la Court-prize of the Royal Netherlands Academy of the Arts and Sciences.
Reviews: '… Blokland engages the "big issues" with confidence and skill, offering an informed interpretation of recent American political theories of democracy and pluralism and their sometimes contradictory implications.
A deep and thoughtful analysis.'
Robert E. Lane, Yale University, USA
'Anyone who worries about the growing human cost of concentrating wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands should read this book.
Hans Blokland's detailed and subtle analysis of the work of Robert Dahl restates the case for pluralism in an age that needs to understand its insights more than ever.'
Alan Harding, University of Manchester, UK
Chapter One Introduction