""Beyond Adversary Democracy" should be read by everyone concerned with democratic theory and practice."--Carol Pateman, "Politics"
"Sociologists recurrently complain about how seldom it is that we produce books that combine serious theorizing about important issues of public policy with original and sensitive field research. Several rounds of enthusiastic applause, then, are due Jane Mansbridge . . . for having produced a dense and well written book whose subject is nothing less ambitious than the theory of democracy and its problems of equality, solidarity, and consensus. "Beyond Adversary Democracy," however, is not simply a work of political theory; Mansbridge explores her abstract subject matter by close studies (using ethnographic, documentary, and questionnaire methods) of two small actual democracies operating at their most elemental American levels (1) a New England town meeting ("Selby," Vermont) and (2) an urban crisis center ("Helpline"), whose 41 employees shared a New Left-Counterculture belief in participatory democracy and consensual decision-making. Mansbridge] is a force to contend with. It is in our common interest that she be widely read."--Bennett M. Berger, "Contemporary Sociology"
Although all American citizens might say that they value democracy, some of them may mean by this the idea of majority rule and some may mean the idea of consensus. University of Chicago political scientist Mansbridge thinks there's a conceptual confusion here that needs to be cleared up. By "adversary democracy," she means majority rule, conflict of interest, and rules of due procedure; by "unitary democracy," she understands consensus, common interest, and persuasion. While both senses of democracy are in continuous interaction, she thinks a case can be made for consciously trying to implement unitary democracy. Using an old-fashioned case study approach, Mansbridge looked in on the Vermont town of Selby and studied what went on in and around its town meetings, and then studied the decision-making processes at work in a "participatory workplace," in this case a crisis center named Helpline. In Selby, Mansbridge noted that the townspeople tried to stick to the unitary mode, since this was more consistent with their self-image as neighbors and friends. On some occasions, however - such as in conflict over the school budget - competing interests came to a head, and the town meetings shifted to a majority rule procedure, so that a constant shifting was the norm, employing whichever form of democracy seemed most appropriate to the issues in question. At Helpline, whose membership of 41 (as against 350 citizens of Selby) was committed to persuasion and unitary democracy, the consensual path was always the desirable one, though the road was often rocky. Mansbridge's conclusions are less than startling: where a common interest prevails, the benefits of participation outweigh the satisfaction of less important particular interests, and unitary democracy is better able to realize the goals of democracy - including self-development - than the adversarial variety; but even in face-to-face communities, some conflict of interest is inevitable, so in those instances majoritarian democracy should still hold sway. The two cases studied are lined up in favor of this finding in advance, but the theoretical argument will stand or fall without the case studies anyway. A lot of effort for rather meager results. (Kirkus Reviews)