Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the 20th Century West

Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the 20th Century West

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By Dennis Pilon
Studies in Comparative Political Economy and Public Policy
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2013
World Rights
408 Pages
ISBN 9781442613508
Published Apr 2013
Online discount: 15%
 $38.95    $33.11
ISBN 9781442645417
Published Apr 2013
Online discount: 25%
 $87.00    $65.25
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442662742
Published Jun 2013
Online discount: 26%
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Though sharing broadly similar processes of economic and political development from the mid-to-late nineteenth century onward, western countries have diverged greatly in their choice of voting systems: most of Europe shifted to proportional voting around the First World War, while Anglo-American countries have stuck with relative majority or majority voting rules. Using a comparative historical approach, Wrestling with Democracy examines why voting systems have (or have not) changed in western industrialized countries over the past century.

In this first single-volume study of voting system reform covering all western industrialized countries, Dennis Pilon reviews national efforts in this area over four timespans: the nineteenth century, the period around the First World War, the Cold War, and the 1990s. Pilon provocatively argues that voting system reform has been a part of larger struggles over defining democracy itself, highlighting previously overlooked episodes of reform and challenging widely held assumptions about institutional change.

Dennis Pilon is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at York University.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Contextualizing Democracy

Chapter 3: Prologue to the Democratic Era

Chapter 4: Facing the Democratic Challenge 1900-1918

Chapter 5: Struggling with Democracy 1919-39

Chapter 6: The Cold War Democratic Compromise 1940-1969

Chapter 7: The Neoliberal Democratic Realignment 1970-2000

Chapter 8: Conclusion

Wrestling with Democracy is an important and provocative book that will stimulate much additional research in years to come. Accessible and engagingly written, it provides a healthy corrective to the general tendency of the literature on electoral reform to focus narrowly on particular reform episodes without considering those episodes’ broader historical context. Dennis Pilon develops this narrative by impressively integrating insights from a wide variety of cases, covering numerous countries and over a hundred years of history.’

Alan Renwick, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Reading

Wrestling with Democracy makes a major contribution to the literature on democratic reform. By means of a theoretically-informed, historical and empirical study of existing democracies, Pilon demonstrates that democracy does not consist only in struggles within the rules, but also, and crucially, over the rules: that is, over voting systems. It is a remarkable achievement that casts historical struggles over voting systems in a new light and changes the way we study democratic participation.”

James Tully, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Law, Indigenous Governance and Philosophy, University of Victoria