Pomper: The concept of elections in political theory

In a 1967 paper, “The concept of elections in political theory”, Gerald M. Pomper briefly mentions “election by lot”.

The paper begins with an assertion:

Popular elections are generally assumed to be the crucial element of democratic governments, but the significance of elections is so widely assumed that it is rarely examined. Although studies of voting behavior abound, there are relatively few theoretical or empirical investigations of the effects of voting on the total political system.

This is an overstatement. Schumpeterian theory was well known and widely discussed at least as late as the 1950’s (e.g., Dahl’s A Preface to Democratic Theory) and a part of that theory is an analysis of the function of elections – an analysis that attacks the “classical doctrine of democracy”. Pomper seems to mean that there is little work attempting to defend the “classical doctrine”. His own defense is to a large extent a capitulation. He gives up on the hope of a representative government and is satisfied with the claim that elections “give the voters a means of protection, a method of intervention in politics when their vital interests were being threatened.” Of course, even this modest claim is not obvious and Pomper doesn’t offer a theoretical argument for its plausibility.

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