Critical Pluralism, Democratic Performance, and Community Power

With a New Preface by the Author

Paul Schumaker

A central question in political science is who governs and how.

Typically political scientists attempt to answer this question by relying upon either empirical analysis, which explains existing political practices, or normative analysis, which prescribes ideal political practices.

“A solid study that makes a significant contribution to our understanding of community political power and democratic political theory. It should be read by all serious students of community power.

—American Political Science Review

“Schumaker’s approach is intelligent, complex, and subtle.

—Urban Studies

See all reviews...

Political scientist Paul Schumaker rejects this distinction between empirical and normative theory. Instead, he weds the two approaches to create the new analytical mode he calls critical pluralism. With it he can measure variances in government from pluralist/democratic ideals and still provide theoretical explanations of why the variances occurred.

Schumaker uses critical pluralism to describe, explain, and evaluate variations in three key measures of democratic performance: responsible representation, complex equality, and principle-policy congruence. To test his framework and methodology he analyzes 29 community issues that arose in Lawrence, Kansas, between 1977 and 1987. The results of his study—one of the most comprehensive databases ever in the study of community politics—will be of interest to those who study community power. The conceptual framework itself and methodology used in assessing democratic performance will have a lasting impact on the way community government is studied.

About the Author

Paul Schumaker is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Kansas, where he taught for 45 years. He is the author or editor of several books, most recently The Twenty-Eighth Amendment?: Beyond Abolishing the Electoral College.

Additional Titles in the Studies in Government and Public Policy Series