29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2003
Dahl's work, which has been cited by countless political scientists since it was first published, provides a useful framework for the examination of democracy (which is not quite equivalent to what he terms 'polyarchy'; democracy consists of a bit more than a polyarchal system). The book is particularly concerned with the two main variables of political orders: 'competition' (public contestation among various political actors) and 'participation' (defined with regards to the right to participate). Using these variables, these systems can graded based on whether they possess these qualities to a greater or lesser degree. While most modern political systems fall in a 'gray area' (they are neither perfectly competitive nor inclusive), Dahl believes that all should strive towards the ideal type, or polyarchy. Dahl goes on to outline the benefits of a polyarchal system and the various ways in which such a system can be achieved. Yet, Dahl also recognizes that the transition to polyarchy is neither inevitable nor invariably desirable. Certain conditions are needed in order for the full benefits of a polyarchy to be realized. Thus, the minimal nature of Dahl's conception allows flexibility in its application. This is why his notion of democracy, as defined through polyarchy, has been adopted time again by those engaging in the debate over democracy, including such luminaries as Samuel P. Huntington and Larry Diamond.