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Michael Saward

ISBN: 978-0-745-62350-4 April 2003 Polity 192 Pages


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This new textbook invites readers to explore their own responses to debates about democracy's meaning. It provides tools for thinking actively about democracy as a practice, an ideal, and a site of contestation.

Open-minded and written with genuine clarity for an undergraduate audience, Saward's book avoids providing easy answers to democracy's dilemmas. Instead, it offers to students the diverse approaches to democracy, showing how the key narratives of contemporary political life have been created and adapted.

Working through a series of compelling real and hypothetical cases, twentieth-century narratives of democracy and their roots, and major new challenges such as globalization and environmentalism, the book makes the ideal starting point both for students already curious and those needing to be enticed and provoked. It concludes with an extraordinary snapshot and appraisal of the new theories of democracy that are making waves in the twenty-first century, and invites informed speculation on the shape of the democracy of the future. Democracy includes an extensive glossary of types of democracy, as well as a guide to further reading.


1. Is this Democracy?.

2. Narrating Democracy I.

3. Narrating Democracy II.

4. Five Challenges.

5. Reinventing Democracy.


Glossary: Concepts of Democracy.

A Guide to Further Reading.




"Saward’s short book is a refreshing account of the broad concerns of democracy which manages to be critical without being pessimistic. It will stimulate students into asking questions rather than trying to provide answers. It provides a general background reading for anyone interested in democratic theory, presenting different routes for students to pursue further study." Keith Dowding, London School of Economics and Political Science

  • Provides an excellent overview of the concept and history of democracy

  • Explores key contemporary challenges to democracy such as globalization and environmentalism

  • Encourages readers to think for themselves through the use of provocative case study materials

  • Includes a useful glossary of types of democracy, as well as an annotated bibliography