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2 - Representative democracy and the populist temptation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Klaus von Beyme
Affiliation:
University of Heidelberg
Sonia Alonso
Affiliation:
Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung
John Keane
Affiliation:
University of Sydney
Wolfgang Merkel
Affiliation:
Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung
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Summary

During the second wave of democratisation that followed World War Two, existing forms of representative democracy proved so superior that few critics thought it necessary to examine and classify them. It is true that during the late 1940s there were debates about whether a parliamentary system should be introduced in the United States (von Beyme 1987: 38 f.), and that even the American Political Science Association (APSA) – which normally refrains from issuing ex-cathedra normative statements – made pronouncements about moving ‘toward a more responsible two-party system’ and a presidential system with a different form of representative government, an American functional equivalent of British cabinet government (Committee on Political Parties of the APSA 1950). Yet during this period only one established democratic regime was transformed, the French Fourth Republic in 1958. All other new democracies of the period displayed considerable stability.

The term ‘defective democracy’ (Merkel 2004) was coined only during the so-called third wave of democratisation, which began in the mid 1970s. As we shall see in this chapter, contemporary typologies of representative democracy now regularly include its deficient forms, a move which has heightened awareness of the ways in which today's consolidated representative democracies suffer from defects – just as early representative forms of government suffered defects, and could hardly be called democracies.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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