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The Political Representation of Economic Interests

Subversion of Democracy or Middle-Class Supremacy?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2020

Abstract

Rising inequality has caused concerns that democratic governments are no longer responding to majority demands, an argument the authors label the subversion of democracy model (sdm). The sdm comes in two forms: one uses public opinion data to show that policies are strongly biased toward the preferences of the rich; the other uses macrolevel data to show that governments aren’t responding to rising inequality. This article critically reassesses the sdm, points to potential biases, and proposes solutions that suggest a different interpretation of the data, which the authors label the representative democracy model (rdm). After testing the sdm against the rdm on public opinion data and on a new data set on fiscal policy, they find that middle-class power has remained remarkably strong over time, even as inequality has risen. The authors conclude that the rich have little influence on redistributive policies, and that the democratic state is apparently not increasingly constrained by global capital.

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Research Article
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Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 2020

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