Remembering Robert Dahl
Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:11PM
Sean Wilson in Robert Dahl, announcement, politicology

(Remembering Robert Dahl, a legendary political scientist who passed away at the age of 98.)

... what I will remember about Robert Dahl was how he invented a new theory for legitimizing the "Second Republic," the state which emerged after the progressives had won their cultural war. In "Who Governs," Dahl had given political science a new theoretical tool called "interest-group pluralism." This theory held that interest-group politics made government more accessible. Issue publics could band together with a cross section of resources: people, time, money, knowledge, information, etc. Everyone had something to give. Just because you lacked wealth didn't mean you were not effective. The seniors became effective with AARP. Gun owners became effective with the NRA. The trial lawyers and doctors had their teams. Even the political scientists had organizations that tried to keep their funding going. And what American government produced was en equilibrium (offset) of these competing forces.

This was truly a remarkable achievement and launched a wonderful conversation -- one that Frank Baumgartner picked up quite effectively. It remains one of the best conversations the field ever produced.

Dahl, in this sense, was like Hamilton and Madison. He launched an enduring, relevant conversation that remains the best kind of thing this field could ever offer.

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