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Professor Dahl initially defended pluralistic competition as inherently democratic, but in later books he theorized that powerful, politically agile minorities could thwart the will of other minorities and, indeed, majorities. He particularly worried that corporate managers could dictate the direction of their companies, often without reference to shareholders. He advocated giving outsiders, including government and interest groups like consumer representatives, a greater role in corporate governance.


Robert Alan Dahl was born on Dec. 17, 1915, in Inwood, Iowa, where his father was a doctor. When hard times made it impossible for many patients to pay their medical bills, the family moved to Skagway, Alaska, where a railroad had advertised for a doctor. Robert worked on the railroad and as a longshoreman during the summers and became a socialist and union advocate. The experience helped inspire him to study the effects of political power on average people.

11 Robert Dahl | Democracy | Liberal Democracy

Robert Dahl Essay Examples | Kibin

A version of this article appears in print on February 8, 2014, on Page A16 of the with the headline: Robert A. Dahl Dies at 98; Defined Politics and Power .

Professor Dahl readily conceded that most people are more interested in work, family, health, friendship and recreation than they are in politics, much less political science. “Politics is a sideshow in the great circus of life,” he wrote.

Robert A Dahl Essay Examples | Kibin

"Robert Dahl" – WriteWork - Essays and Papers for Students

Professor Dahl was chairman of the political science department from 1957 to 1962. In 1968, he led a committee that recommended that Yale become one of the first American universities to establish an undergraduate major in African-American culture. It did. In 1972, he headed a committee that recommended that Yale’s four-year course of study be cut to three and that majors be abolished. Those proposals were rejected.

Tocqueville worried that the equality fostered by democracy would ultimately pose a threat to liberty. Yale political scientist Dahl (A Preface to Democratic Theory) says that Tocqueville's fear was misplaced: it's equality that's in trouble, and the only way to save it and democracy is to extend the principles of political democracy to the business enterprise. Dahl's style is not scintillating--he combines analytical reasoning with empirical data--but the fact that this argument is coming from an eminent establishment academic is noteworthy per se. After positing that a democratic process should meet certain criteria--equal votes, effective participation, ""enlightened understanding,"" control over what is (or isn't) subject to collective decision-making, inclusion of all adults--Dahl faces the hurdle of showing that a business enterprise is as suitable as government for such a process. On the tough issue--can an enterprise's decisions be construed as binding upon its members?--Dahl argues that, in practice, it's as least as difficult for a worker to reject a business's decisions as it is for a citizen to reject a government's. (A citizen can move to a different locality and still be a citizen, but a worker who gets fired or quits does not have automatic entree to another enterprise.) On that basis, all members of the collectivity should have a voice in those decisions. Dahl then fleshes out his vision of economic democracy, adhering to principles of justice and efficiency as well as democratic procedures, and winds up with a benign image of collectively-owned enterprises operating in a market setting with some government control to ensure fairness. The enterprises themselves would be able to reduce internal pay inequalilty--the managerial personnel would not be members of the collective, but hired hands (for whom enterprises would compete)--and that, together with greater equality in decision-making, would strenghten political equality in the nation as a whole. Dahl also sees built-in incentives for the creation of investment capital within the firms that could lead to improved national economic performance. Much of this remains abstract--but it's the argument that counts, and that's worth taking seriously.

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A Preface to Economic Democracy - Robert A

Robert A. Dahl, a political scientist who was widely regarded as his profession’s most distinguished student of democratic government, died on Wednesday in Hamden, Conn. He was 98.

Robert A. Dahl: Defender of Democracy

Despite the unfortunate tendency of some political scientists to theorize and to examine political phenomena with little reference to economic issues, many scholars correctly insist on taking into account the relationship between economics and politics. Yet, even these scholars sometimes employ modes of economic thought that underestimate the diversity and complexity of the ways in which political and economic relations affect each other, including the positive and negative effects different economic practices have on democracy. In this article, I examine the work of Robert Dahl as a case study of just such a scholar, one who is explicitly concerned about the interconnections between economics and politics, but whose theorization of them falls short in several crucial ways. For example, although Dahl rightly refers to the historical, political nature of markets, at other times he adopts economistic conceptualizations of them, conceptualizations that treat the economy as an autonomous realm with its own laws of motion. Such laws set narrow constraints on permissible forms of political “intervention” and thereby curtail not only the scope of democracy but also the possibilities for altering those economic relations that negatively affect democracy—consequences that are counter to Dahl's stated political and theoretical intentions.


Robert A. Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989), 253, 323–26, and A Preface to Economic Democracy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 91–110; Dahl and Charles E. Lindblom, Politics, Economics, and Welfare (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1992), preface, 35; Dahl, On Democracy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 173–77, Dilemmas of Pluralist Democracy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982), 108–10, 151–54, 199–203, “Justifying Democracy,” Society 35 (January/February 1998), “Equality versus Inequality,” PS: Political Science & Politics (December 1996), 645–46, and Democracy, Liberty, and Equality (Oslo: Norwegian University Press, 1986), 25–27.


Professor Dahl was president of the American Political Science Association in 1967. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was a Guggenheim Fellow twice. In 1995, he was the first recipient of the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science, an award given by Uppsala University in Sweden to the scholar who has made the most valuable contribution to political science.

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