About the Talk

Debates about which kinds of political parties are best pay insufficient attention their purposes. I distinguish clientelist conceptions of parties as seeking benefits for members that Madison feared from the view Burke championed: that parties seek to govern in the public interest—if from inescapably partisan points of view.  I defend the view the Burkean conception as superior and best served by two strongly disciplined parties. This involves rejecting prevalent principal-agent views of the relations between voters and parties. A better point of departure lies is to recognize that power is a natural monopoly and then ask what the best democratic way is to manage it in the public interest. Programmatic competition between two strong parties offers unique advantages from this point of view. Recent trends toward party proliferation, increased intra-party competition, enhanced grass roots control of leaders and platform, referendums, and other forms of direct democracy are therefore unfortunate.

About the Speaker

Ian Shapiro is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He has written widely and influentially on democracy, justice, and the methods of social inquiry. A native of South Africa, he received his J.D. from the Yale Law School and his Ph.D from the Yale Political Science Department where he has taught since 1984 and served as chair from 1999 to 2004. Shapiro also served as Henry R. Luce Director of the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies from 2004-2019. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Shapiro is a past fellow of the Carnegie Corporation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Cape Town, Keio University in Tokyo, and Nuffield College, Oxford. His most recent books are The Real World of Democratic Theory (Princeton University Press, 2012) Politics Against Domination (Harvard University Press, 2016), and, with Frances Rosenbluth, Responsible Parties: Saving Democracy from Itself (Yale University Press, 2018). His current research concerns the relations between democracy and the distribution of income and wealth.

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