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Majority rule versus consensus : the political thought of John C. Calhoun /
James H. Read.
Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, c2009.
xi, 276 p.
0700616357 (cloth : alk. paper), 9780700616350 (cloth : alk. paper)
More Details
Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, c2009.
0700616357 (cloth : alk. paper)
9780700616350 (cloth : alk. paper)
contents note
Introduction -- Calhoun and the legacies of Jefferson and Madison -- Calhoun's political economy and the ideal of sectional reciprocity -- Calhoun's constitution, federal union, and slavery -- Calhoun's defense of slavery -- Calhoun's consensus model of government -- Contemporary divided societies and the minority veto -- Conclusion.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2009-11-01:
The author of this interesting, important book justifies his attention to John Caldwell Calhoun on the premise that Calhoun's "consensus model" remains an exceedingly influential "ideal" in contemporary world politics. Read (College of St. Benedict) explains this influence via the intervening connection of Arend Lijphart and his idea of consociational democracy, which makes Lijphart "probably closest to Calhoun in theoretical approach" of all contemporary political scientists. In Read's presentation, Lijphart's work has been a conduit of Calhoun's political philosophy to contemporary "founders" in such places as Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, and South Africa. In the US, it is Lani Guinier who emerges as the major contemporary disciple of Calhoun. The "clear parallel between Calhoun and Guinier" is rooted in her assumption "that political elites will be more willing and able to bridge racial, social, and political divides than members of the voting population as a whole." While Read is clear that Calhoun's work "cannot be reduced simply to a defense of slavery," he is nevertheless forced to the conclusion that "Calhoun's remedy ... is workable only in ways that are less fair or just than majority rule." However, Read is persuaded that Calhoun's skepticism about "simplistic democratic evangelism" remains of great value. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. C. D. Pearce University of South Carolina-Beaufort
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Choice, November 2009
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Bowker Data Service Summary
This text sheds light on the promise and limitations of democracy, showing that, despite the failure of Calhoun's remedy, his diagnosis of the potential injustice of majority rule must be taken seriously.
Main Description
John C. Calhoun may be best known for his stature in the U.S. Senate and his controversial defense of slavery, but he is also a key figure in American political thought. The staunchest advocate of the consensus model of government as an alternative to majority rule, he proposed government not by one, by few, or by many, but by all: each key group enjoying veto rights over collective decisions. Some consider consensus preferable to majority rule in deeply divided societies, and consensus theory has been advocated in such contemporary works as Lani Guiniers The Tyranny of the Majority. James Reads book, the first historically informed, theoretically sophisticated critique of Calhouns political thought, goes beyond other studies to ask key questions about the feasibility of consensus. Read critically examines Calhouns arguments, considering both their antebellum context-including Calhouns spirited defense of slavery-and modern-day attempts to apply consensus models in Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, and South Africa. Read sheds new light on the crisis leading up to the Civil War by exploring Calhouns conviction that his uncompromising defense of slavery would help preserve the Union. He also juxtaposes Calhouns thought with that of Jefferson and Madison, whose legacies Calhoun invoked to support his claim that states had the right to nullify federal law, and he contrasts Madisons ultimate faith in majority rule with Calhouns ultimate rejection of it. Read argues that, although Calhouns critique of majority rule deserves careful attention, his remedy is unworkable and in the end unjust. Read demonstrates that governments ruled by consensus tend to be ineffective, that they are better at preventing common action than achieving common goods, and that they privilege strategically placed minorities rather than producing genuine consensus. Majority Rule versus Consensus is a provocative work that sheds new light on the promise and limitations of democracy, showing that, despite the failure of Calhouns remedy, his diagnosis of the potential injustice of majority rule must be taken seriously. It discourages uncritical celebrations of democracy in favor of reflection on how committed democrats can better address the problems that Calhoun attempted to solve.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Calhoun and the Legacies of Jefferson and Madisonp. 23
Calhoun's Political Economy and the Ideal of Sectional Reciprocityp. 53
Calhoun's Constitution, Federal Union, and Slaveryp. 85
Calhoun's Defense of Slaveryp. 118
Calhoun's Consensus Model of Governmentp. 160
Contemporary Divided Societies and the Minority Vetop. 196
Conclusionp. 227
Notesp. 239
Selected Bibliographyp. 265
Indexp. 271
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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