David Stasavage – The Decline and Rise of Democracy

Democracy is “a natural occurring condition in humanity societies.” This single idea sets Stasavage apart from so many theorists who look to the past. His first chapter, “The Origins of Democratic Rule,” is as breathtaking as it is ambitious. He reshapes the narrative of the democratic origins through a broad examination of different peoples throughout…

Werner Sombart – Why is there no Socialism in the United States

The campaign of Bernie Sanders was destined for failure. The American public has long rejected socialism as a political ideology despite its widespread embrace of social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance. The irony is redistributive programs have largely buttressed the capitalist system. They offer enough security to maintain widespread support for capitalism…

Moisés Naím – The End of Power

Early in my life I was drawn to power to impose my ideas onto the world. It was only natural to believe leaders were able to change organizations, businesses or even geopolitics to their whim. But I found my implicit sense of power was entirely wrong. There is a tradeoff between authority and influence. Leadership…

Cristina Flesher Fominaya – Democracy Reloaded

The assemblies of 15-M and Occupy Wall Street were different from past mass movements or protests. They introduced mass public assemblies that offered an alternate vision of democracy based along a horizontal organizing logic. The assemblies were so large people used hand signals to communicate. And despite their numbers they were committed to the establishment…

Robert Michels – Political Parties

The Iron Law of Oligarchy describes the role of elites to control organizations. Typically, this idea is translated to democratic governance but Michels restricted his original work to political parties. Indeed, his work is truly limited to just socialist parties. But this is the irony Michels recognized within socialist politics. Despite their emphasis on the…

Larry Alan Busk – Democracy in Spite of the Demos

Americans find it a challenge to reconcile their political idealism with the uncertainty of democracy. The resolution has been to make democracy itself into an ideal. Woodrow Wilson embodied this vision in his quest to make the world safe for democracy. But democracy can devolve into a sophism which is antithetical to any form of…

Seymour Martin Lipset – Continental Divide

Let us get past the surface level topics which Continental Divide revolves. It is easy to become distracted in Lipset’s depiction of Canada and America. He recognized both societies had undergone dramatic change throughout the twentieth century that transformed their political images. The book is now thirty years old. It’s almost as old as I…

Jonathan Hopkin – Anti-System Politics

As populism and polarization have become part of the common vocabulary of political writings, their meaning has become less provocative. There is a general acceptance of its existence which no longer shocks the senses. But anti-system retains a powerful emotive force for the political scientist. It catches the reader off guard and gains their immediate…

A. C. Grayling – The Good State

The line between political science and philosophy is not always clear. Sometimes I find I pretend I am a political philosopher, while other times I imagine I am a political scientist. Political theory is perhaps a delicate balance between the two. And yet there are some who focus more on philosophy and others who rely…