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Who Governs?: Democracy and Power in an American City, Second Edition (Yale Studies in Political Science) 2nd ed. Edition
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Now, how much Dahl's results matter to you is another case--many believe his results are faulty due to the use of the Decisional method. The method itself is considered to be of limited use. The polar opposite of this book is Floyd Hunter's (1953) "Community Power Structure." Hunter used a "Positional" method and determined that the elite govern in Atlanta.
Dahl's book is good for what it is, but it is not what experts on local political power believe now. To get a well-rounded education on local political power, read Hunter. To get up-to-date, read Stone (1989) Regime Politics (used Decisional and positional approaches together), and read Logan and Molotch (1987) Urban Fortunes. [Revised edition] 2007.
What's most interesting to me is that Dahl's conception of power under Mayor Lee in the 1950's approaches nearly a corporatist government structure based on groupings of power bases (ethnic, regional, intellectual, industry-based) and strategically selected political "representatives" of those distinct groups selected by the mayor. However, Dahl is clear to point out that although Lee ran an effective executive office that was able to effect a broad swath of policy changes, the citizens of New Haven never compromised or had compromised their "democratic creed" by the mayor's efforts.
While interesting and certainly relevant to today's socio-political issues - especially his section on the levels of integration of immigrant minority groups into the political process - certainly a broader framework of understanding needs to be considered to understand American democracy and electoral politics as a whole.Read more ›
His argument was that, in this city, decision making power was divided among different groups. One set of groups was involved in, for instance, urban development. Another set in education policy within the city. Still another set of groups with respect to political nominations and elections. No single elite dominated across these issues. Hence, in his judgment, power was divided.
Elected officials, too, had a role to play. The city's mayor, Richard Lee, was at the head of an "executive-centered coalition."
The central importance of this case study is its elaboration of pluralism, the politics of competing centers of power, in action. As such, it remains a classic in the world of political science.
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First-rate analysis of the dynamics of power in the shaping of an American city. The analysis benefits from the specificity of having choosen a single city: New Haven, CT. Read morePublished on January 8, 2007 by Barbara Greten