How democratic is the American Constitution?

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How democratic is the American Constitution?

Dahl, Robert Alan, 1915-

New Haven, Conn. ; London : Yale University Press, 2003.

x, 224 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.

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In this provocative book, one of our most eminent political scientists poses the question, "Why should Americans uphold their constitution?" The vast majority of Americans venerate the Constitution and the democratic principles it embodies, but many also worry that the United States has fallen behind other nations on crucial issues, including economic equality, racial integration, and women's rights. Robert Dahl explores this vital tension between the Americans' belief in the legitimacy of their constitution and their belief in the principles of democracy.
Dahl starts with the assumption that the legitimacy of the American Constitution derives solely from its utility as an instrument of democratic governance. Dahl demonstrates that, due to the context in which it was conceived, our constitution came to incorporate significant antidemocratic elements. Because the Framers of the Constitution had no relevant example of a democratic political system on which to model the American government, many defining aspects of our political system were implemented as a result of short-sightedness or last-minute compromise. Dahl highlights those elements of the American system that are most unusual and potentially antidemocratic: the federal system, the bicameral legislature, judicial review, presidentialism, and the electoral college system.
The political system that emerged from the world's first great democratic experiment is unique--no other well-established democracy has copied it. How does the American constitutional system function in comparison to other democratic systems? How could our political system be altered to achieve more democratic ends? To what extent did the Framers of the Constitution build features into our political system that militate against significant democratic reform?
Refusing to accept the status of the American Constitution as a sacred text, Dahl challenges us all to think critically about the origins of our political system and to consider the opportunities for creating a more democratic society.

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ISBN:

978-0-300-09524-1 (pbk.)

Author:

Dahl, Robert Alan, 1915-

Title:

How democratic is the American Constitution? / Robert A. Dahl.

Edition:

2nd ed.

Publisher:

New Haven, Conn. ; London : Yale University Press, 2003.

Physical:

x, 224 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.

Series:

Yale Nota bene.

Series:

The Castle lectures in ethics, politics, and economics.

Notes:

Previous ed.: New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press, 2001.

BibliogrphyNote:

Includes bibliographical references (p. [195]-216) and index.

Subject:

Constitutional law--United States.

Subject:

Constitutional history--United States.

Subject:

Democracy--United States.

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245 Title 10  $a Title  How democratic is the American Constitution? /
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    $a Place of publication, dist.  London :
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440 Series Title $a Title  The Castle lectures in ethics, politics, and economics.
500 General Note   $a General note  Previous ed.: New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press, 2001.
504 BibliogrphyNote   $a Bibliography, etc. note  Includes bibliographical references (p. [195]-216) and index.
505 ContentsNote 0   $a Formatted contents note  Introduction: fundamental questions -- What the framers couldn't know -- The Constitution as a model: an American illusion -- Electing the president -- How well does the constitutional system perform? -- Why not a more democratic constitution? -- Some reflections on the prospects for a more democratic constitution -- Further reflections: changing the unwritten constitution -- Appendix A: on the terms "democracy" and "republic" -- Appendix B: tables and figures.
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