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The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist's View of Democracy in America

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  184 ratings  ·  13 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, 180 pages
Published March 13th 1975 by Cengage Learning
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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
...more
Tom
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books for understanding how to respond to conflict.
Steven Peterson
Sep 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Paul Killebrew
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Heather
Sep 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Niels
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“If it is true that the result of political contests is determined by the scope of public involvement in conflicts, much that has been written about politics becomes nonsense, and we are in for a revolution in our thinking about politics”.

Thought-provoking and at the same time confirming many intuitive considerations. A must-read for anyone interested in the workings and outcomes of political conflict, politics and democracy.
goddess
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics, own
Admittedly skipped a chapter or two (as only 3/4 of the book was required by my professor) this guy seems a little skewed in his philosophy of politics. Does he have something against the rich?? Some of his theses are poignant and thought-provoking; conflict definitely gets people/groups activated in the political process. However, he seems to downplay the effect of small-interest groups who I think can have a big influence on politicians and voters.
Amber
Jan 11, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Chris
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Andrew
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Democracy is about expanding the scope of conflict.
Larissa
Aug 30, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
An interesting view of how conflict, interest groups, and agenda-setting have affected American politics in the modern era.
Emma
Nov 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: school
This book was terrible. I hated it. SO difficult to understand but there were a couple good points.
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