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Descripción de editorial
Even well-established democracies need reform, and any successful effort to reform democracies must look beyond conventional institutions—elections, political parties, special interests, legislatures and their relations with chief executives—to do so.
Expanding a traditional vision of the institutions of representative democracy, Douglas A. Chalmers examines six aspects of political practice relating to the people being represented, the structure of those who make law and policy, and the links between those structures and the people. Chalmers concludes with a discussion of where successful reform needs to take place: we must pay attention to a democratic ordering of the constant reconfiguration of decision making patterns; we must recognize the crucial role of information in deliberation; and we must incorporate noncitizens and foreigners into the political system, even when they are not the principal beneficiaries.
This illuminating examination of the challenges faced by democracies looks beyond the usual culprits. Columbia University political science professor Chalmers identifies six less-discussed aspects of democracies that must be addressed before true, meaningful reforms can occur. First, he proposes that governments take into greater account the wide variety of noncitizens, or "quasi-citizens," living and working under their watch, from undocumented immigrants to foreign-owned companies. Despite typically lacking the citizen's traditional power of the vote, quasi-citizens can still exert their own forms of influence on decision making in their host countries. To the concerns of quasi-citizens, Chalmers adds other nations and outside international organizations to his list of the nonvoters that a democracy must routinely take into account. Also key to the book's conception of democracy are the personal networks that invariably form around leaders, often exercising even more influence over policy than formal structures like political parties and bureaucracies. Understanding the biases inherent in such networks, Chalmers suggests, can help policymakers avoid mistakes such as the tight-knit Bush administration's rush to war with Iraq. Well written and thoughtful, this book should provoke conversations among those seeking changes to an imperfect system.