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In Defense of Pluralism
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Book description

The work of early pluralist thinkers, from Arthur Bentley to Robert Dahl, inspired much optimism about democracy. They argued that democracy was functioning well, despite disagreements arising among the diversity of interests represented in policy-making processes. Yet it is unlikely that anyone paying attention to news coverage today would share such optimism. The media portray current policy-making processes as intractably polarized, devoid of any opportunity to move forward and adopt essential policy changes. This book aims to revive our long-lost sense of optimism about policy-making and democracy. Through original research into biotechnology policy-making in North America and Europe, Éric Montpetit shows that the depiction of policy-making offered by early pluralist thinkers is not so far off the present reality. Today's policy decision-making process - complete with disagreement among the participants - is consistent with what might be expected in a pluralist society, in sharp contrast with the negative image projected by the media.


‘Politics, and especially the interest-group struggle, gets a bad rap. In this spirited defense of democratic, pluralist politics, Éric Montpetit compares the practice of politics with what the media says about that process in biotechnology policy. He finds serious distortions in media depictions that, he argues, need redressing. Montpetit's defense is straightforward, solidly empirical, and his case is well-made. The book is a must-read for policy scholars, students in public policy courses, journalists covering politics, and policy activists. It is a needed bromide for today's overly cynical view of the democratic political process.'

Bryan D. Jones - University of Texas, Austin

‘Éric Montpetit shines a light on policy processes under the shadow of mainstream politics and, in doing so, shows that pluralistic democracies are not quite as distressed as commonly depicted in the mass media. His book forces a much-needed introspection of our prior assumptions and baseline knowledge about how we study, understand, and assess policy processes. Grounded in theory and backed by solid empirical evidence, this book remains accessible to academics and non-academics looking to connect studies of policy processes and democratic politics.'

Christopher Weible - University of Colorado, Denver

‘In Defense of Pluralism cuts against the grain of many popular and scholarly accounts by showing how policy actors in North America and Europe have a much more nuanced set of beliefs about genetically engineered foods and stem cell research than media coverage of these controversies would lead us to believe. Montpetit shows that disagreement over contentious issues does not undermine policy actors' ability to address pressing, complex problems. The quality of the research in this book is truly impressive, and its findings are presented in a highly accessible style that will appeal to a broad range of readers.'

Adam Sheingate - The Johns Hopkins University

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