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The semisovereign people: A realist's view of democracy in America
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The semisovereign people: A realist's view of democracy in America

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  106 ratings  ·  9 reviews
This book is an attempt to formulate a theory of political organization, a theory about the relation between organization and conflict, the relation between political organization and democracy, and the organizational alternatives open to the American people.
Paperback, 147 pages
Published June 1st 1980 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston (first published June 1975)
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Benjamin Wetmore
Having read this as an undergrad PoliSci major, I remembered it being better than it was.

Here were my major complaints:
1- not understanding the economic concept of rent-seeking, that big business also colludes with government to preserve their market position. Schattschneider ("Shatty"), claims only small businesses avail themselves of the state. This is clearly wrong, and inverted. Small businesses too often lack any meaningful entry into state power and authority, and only major multinationals
Obviously an important book on the role of competition and influence in political parties, and one with repercussions for the present system. I'm ignorant of the scholarly debate which happened in the following decades, but it's surprising to see someone so vigorously criticize the pluralism of the American system in its supposed heyday (1960).
Steven Peterson
E. E. Schattschneider was one of the most important political scientists of the middle part of the 20th century. His work has had an influence on many analysts of politics. This slender volume, although brief, is one of his more provocative and influential works. Ideas from this book show up in the work of many others.

Let's take a look at just two of the many provocative points that he makes.

A central assumption underlying the work (Page v): ". . .the nature of political organization depends o
Paul Killebrew
I read this because it has a well known line often quoted out of context: "The flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper-class accent." One of the book's insights is that the scope of a political conflict goes some way in determining the outcome, but the rich are over-represented at every point of activity. I especially like this paragraph about nonvoters (the numbers are from the mid-50s):

"Loosely, perhaps we have a sociopolitical community consisting of
Even though this book was written in the 1960s, I still find it is relevant to political thought today. I mean - there still isn't a standard definition of the word and concept "democracy"! Not much has changed. Schattschneider also discusses the role of conflict and business in the overall political scene.
Considering this is a text for class, I enjoyed the read. It is easy to understand. It proposes the idea that a democracy relies on conflict to function. Schattschneider starts with defining organizations and conflict then starts to apply them to the American democratic process. He spends some time on some case studies, but they are harder to relate to because the book was written about 1960. He spent a lot of time discussing how the two-party system has been a more recent development and how co ...more
Maybe the best book on democratic politics written in the 20th Century. Succinct, epigramatic, and powerful in its analysis. Dissertations could be (and have been) written about dozens of the insights made in the work.
An interesting view of how conflict, interest groups, and agenda-setting have affected American politics in the modern era.
One of the best books for understanding how to respond to conflict.
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