James Fishkin

James Fishkin author of Tyranny and Legitimacy and of The Limits of Obligation, is a professor of political science at Yale University. His Justice and Equal Opportunity will be published next year.

More democracy?

James Fishkin, 17 June 1982

Forty years ago, in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Joseph Schumpeter argued that the expectations for democracy bequeathed to us by the classical tradition were hopelessly unrealistic. He offered an alternative bare-bones definition, one actually satisfied by many large-scale nation-states. ‘The democratic method,’ he said, ‘is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote.’ This minimal definition has since been treated by many as a pale shadow of the full-bodied democratic idea. After all, élites may ‘compete’ for office in elections without any very meaningful or widespread participation by the electorate, without majorities being satisfied on particular issues, or without the groups that care most intensely about particular issues getting what they want. While this may be the kind of democracy realised in many nation-states, the question naturally arises whether so pale a version of the real thing is worth having.

In the beginning was A.J. Ayer

Brian Barry, 20 June 1985

The creation of moral philosophy as we know it: in the beginning was A.J. Ayer, and moral assertions were without form, and void. More precisely, they were of a grammatically misleading form and...

Read More

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences