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Who Governs?: Democracy and Power in an American City, Second Edition (Yale Studies in Political Science) 2nd ed. Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300103922
ISBN-10: 0300103921
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  • Who Governs?: Democracy and Power in an American City, Second Edition (Yale Studies in Political Science)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

““Dahl is never dogmatic, and never imagines that the world stands still to accommodate either the democratic ideal or his own pluralistic theory of city politics. . . . Who Governs? is Dahl’s liveliest and most remarkable book.”—Douglas W. Rae, from the Foreword


““A book that no one interested in politics can afford to ignore.”—Lewis A. Coser, Commentary


““Anyone seriously concerned with current systematic political theory or with urban politics should read Who Governs?”—Hugh Douglas Price, Political Science Quarterly

About the Author

Robert A. Dahl is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Yale University and past president of the American Political Science Association. He is the author of numerous books, including Polyarchy and Democracy and Its Critics, available in paperback from Yale University Press.
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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Studies in Political Science
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd ed. edition (May 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300103921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300103922
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Houvenagle on April 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book continues to be the best example of an application of "Decisional Method" research on Community Power which tends to yield an answer of Pluralism in the way New Haven Connecticut was governed.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dahl's Who Governs is probably no less relevant today than it was in its own time. A fairly comprehensive quantitative and qualitative study of the political nature of the City of New Haven from its founding to approximately 1959, Dahl presents a view of American "democracy" as a democracy where resources of power are unevenly distributed, and not cumulatively held by one single segment of society. Power and government are pluralistic in a uniquely American sense in his New Haven of the past, and also "democratic" in an American understanding. In this book he gives us an idea of who and what groups are involved in power and making decisions in politics, and how those individuals at the top involve the middling and lower strata of society in their elevation to power and execution thereof.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
There are a number of approaches toward explaining who has power in a community or some other political unit. Among these: elitism, pluralism, participatory democracy, representative democracy, technocracy, and so on. The basic text on pluralism? Robert Dahl's case study of New Haven, CT, published first in 1961.

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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