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Four distinguished scholars in political science analyze American democracy from a comparative point of view, exploring how the U.S. political system differs from that of thirty other democracies and what those differences ultimately mean for democratic performance. This essential text approaches the following institutions from a political engineering point of view: constitutions, electoral systems, and political parties, as well as legislative, executive, and judicial power. The text looks at democracies from around the world over a two-decade time frame. The result is not only a fresh view of the much-discussed theme of American exceptionalism but also an innovative approach to comparative politics that treats the United States as but one case among many. An ideal textbook for both American and comparative politics courses.
In this updated and expanded edition of his highly acclaimed book Democracies, Arend Lijphart offers a broader and deeper analysis of worldwide democratic institutions than ever before. Examining thirty-six democracies during the half-century from 1945 to 1996, Lijphart arrives at important -- and unexpected -- conclusions about what type of democracy works best. While conventional wisdom suggests that majoritarian democracies like those in the United States and Great Britain are superior to consensual systems like those in Switzerland and Israel, Lijphart shows this is not so. In fact, consensual systems stimulate economic growth, control inflation and unemployment, and limit budget deficits just as well as majoritarian democracies do. And, consensus democracies clearly outperform majoritarian systems on measures of political equality, women's representation, citizen participation in elections, and proximity between government policies and voter preferences. Systematically comparing cabinets, legislatures, parties, election systems, supreme courts, and -- for the first time in this volume -- interest groups and central banks, Lijphart demonstrates that the more consensual a democracy, the "kinder and gentler" it is when addressing welfare, environmental, criminal justice, and foreign aid issues. These findings are of far-reaching import not only for countries designing their first democratic constitutions but also for established democracies seeking practical approaches to reform.
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