The Devolution of American Politics
AUTHOR: Ron Hirschbein
PUBLISHER: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
Also available at Amazon.com
Does it really matter if a voter decides to vote-or, as a significant number of Americans do each election, not vote? Ron Hirschbein explores this issue and shows why enfranchisement cannot be understood unless it is placed in context and history. Clearly, the meaning of a vote depends upon the situation: a vote cast among the 400 of Athens or in the College of Cardinals has one significance; this is considerably different from pulling a lever every four years in a mass society of spectacles and commodities. Hirschbein also examines how voting was transformed from an expression of the political will of the Athenian polity into a sacred natural right-only to be turned to a ritual of mass society.
First, Hirschbein looks at the right to vote as the centerpiece of American civic religion. He contrasts civic myths about enfranchisement with anthropological realities. Specifically he argues that, given the intractable mathematics of mass society, the chances that a single vote will determine the outcome of an election approach the infinitesimal. However, he suggests that voting plays a neglected ritual function by constructing, legitimizing, and celebrating political reality for players and spectators alike. Hirschbein then explicates the origins and evanescent meanings of enfranchisement by examining the theory and practice of voting among the citizenry of ancient Athens, medieval ecclesiastical bureaucrats, Enlightenment natural law thinkers, and the founders of the Virtuous Republic. He concludes with speculation about possible futures. A controversial and important analysis, this will be of interest to the general public as well as scholars, researchers, and policy makers involved with election issues and theories of democracy.
PUBLICATION DATE: 12/30/1999
CATEGORY: Political Science