Sociologists, Economists, and Democracy

Paperback | September 15, 1988

byBrian Barry

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"Rationalist theories of political behavior have recently risen in status to that of a new—or, more accurately, rediscovered—paradigm in the systematic study of politics. Brian Barry's short, provocative book played no small part in the debate that precipitated this shift. . . . Without reservation, Barry's treatise is the most lucid and most influential critique of two important, competing perspectives in political analysis: the 'sociological' school of Talcott Parsons, Gabriel Almond, and other so-called functionalists; and the 'economic' school of Anthony Downs and Mancur Olson, among others."—Dennis J. Encarnation, American Journal of Sociology

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From Our Editors

'Rationalist theories of political behavior have recently risen in status to that of a new--or, more accurately, rediscovered--paradigm in the systematic study of politics. Brian Barry's short, provocative book played no small part in the debate that precipitated this shift... Without reservation, Barry's treatise is the most lucid and...

From the Publisher

"Rationalist theories of political behavior have recently risen in status to that of a new—or, more accurately, rediscovered—paradigm in the systematic study of politics. Brian Barry's short, provocative book played no small part in the debate that precipitated this shift. . . . Without reservation, Barry's treatise is the most lucid a...

From the Jacket

'Rationalist theories of political behavior have recently risen in status to that of a new--or, more accurately, rediscovered--paradigm in the systematic study of politics. Brian Barry's short, provocative book played no small part in the debate that precipitated this shift... Without reservation, Barry's treatise is the most lucid and...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:212 pages, 8.54 × 5.56 × 0.6 inPublished:September 15, 1988Publisher:University Of Chicago Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226038246

ISBN - 13:9780226038247

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Customer Reviews of Sociologists, Economists, and Democracy

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Critique of Political Science Theories to 1970 An important academic text, but of interest only to students and those with a strong desire to explore the development of the economic and sociological roots of politics. Written in 1970, the book is entirely focused on the development of major schools of thought in both areas, primarily the preceding 30 years but with reference back to foundational thinkers such as John Stuart Mill, Thomas Hobbes, August Comte, Jeremy Bentham and others. The book contains six substantive chapters sandwiched between an excellent introduction and conclusion. The second chapter examines two major economists’ contributions to political theory – Anthony Downs’ ‘An Economic Theory of Democracy’ and Mancur Olson’s ‘The Logic of Collective Action’ – providing both explanations and detailed critiques of their theories. The third chapter introduces three major sociologists’ contributions – Almond and Verba (‘The Civic Culture’), Harry Eckstein (‘Division and Cohesion in Democracy’) and Seymour Lipset (‘Political Man’ and ‘The First New Nation’). The fourth chapter is devoted entirely to sociologist Talcott Parsons, in particular his first book ‘The Structure of Social Action’, and the role of norms and values in voting. The Fifth Chapter delves more deeply into Downs work, including the role of information costs, strategic abstention of voters, and Downs’ problematic expansion of his linear left/right continuum from a two-party system to a multi-party system. The sixth and seventh chapters: test each field’s claims using US and non-US data; examine the problem of more than one ideological dimension (not just left/right for example but also religious or other ‘value’); examine the aims of political parties and the effect of party competition; and consider whether democracy is a means to an end or an end in itself. Readers of this book will benefit from previous knowledge of the subject and from familiarity with each economist’s or sociologist’s work, but with careful attention and some time to explore less familiar works or references even newcomers will gain a foundational understanding of issues that continue to underpin the better political writing today. Reflecting in the book’s conclusion, Barry considers the ongoing development of political theory, and thereby his own book’s importance. “The most striking fact, to me at least, is how primitive is the stage things are still in. By this I mean partly that the theoretical literature of both ‘economic’ and ‘sociological’ approaches is surprisingly sparse, in spite of the number of new books on politics that appear each year.” An excellent critique of major theories up to 1970, and a perfect starting point for analysis of the two social sciences’ progress since.
Date published: 2016-11-14

Extra Content

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Introduction
1. The State of Political Theory
2. The Two Approaches Outlined
3. Ideological Origins: Sociological Approach
4. Ideological Origins: Economic Approach
5. Subjects to be Covered
Chapter II - Political Participation as Rational Action
1. The Decision to Vote: Downs and Riker
2. The Decision to Vote: Limits of the Economic Approach
3. The Basic Logic of Olson's Theory
4. Application of Olson's Theory
5. Participation in Collective Action: Some Explanations
6. Selective Incentives as Explanations
7. Leadership and Collective Action
8. Conditions of Economic Rationality
Chapter III - Values and Stable Democracy: Three Theories
1. Introduction
2. Almond and Verba
3. Eckstein
4. Lipset
Chapter IV - Values and Democratic Stability: the Setting and the Problems
1. Introduction
2. Parsons on the 'Hobbesian Problem'
3. Parsons on Norms and Values
4. Values and Social Order
5. Values as Explanations
6. The Problem of Causal Inference
7. How Important are Values?
Chapter V - The Economic Theory of Democracy
1. The Downsian Model Introduced
2. Information Costs and Strategic Abstention
3. Multi-Party Systems
Chapter VI - Testing Theories of Democracy (1)
1. Issues and Voting Decisions: U.S. Data
2. Issues and Voting Decisions: Non-U.S. Data
3. The Problems of Dimensions
4. What is an Issue?
Chapter VII - Testing Theories of Democracy (2)
1. The Aims of Political Parties
2. The Effects of Party Competition
3. Some Sociological Explanations
4. Justifications of Democracy
Chapter VIII - Conclusion
1. Conceptions of 'Theory'
2. Conceptions of 'System' and 'Equilibrium'
3. Underlying Values
4. Implicit Assumptions
5. Relationship of the Two Approaches
Bibliography (with a Postscript 1978)
Subject Index

From Our Editors

'Rationalist theories of political behavior have recently risen in status to that of a new--or, more accurately, rediscovered--paradigm in the systematic study of politics. Brian Barry's short, provocative book played no small part in the debate that precipitated this shift... Without reservation, Barry's treatise is the most lucid and most influential critique of two important, competing perspectives in political analysis: the 'sociological' school of Talcott Parsons, Gabriel Almond, and other so-called functionalists; and the 'economic' school of Anthony Downs and Mancur Olson, among others.' - Dennis J. Encarnation, American Journal of Sociology