In This Review

Democracy's Place
Democracy's Place
By Ian Shapiro
Cornell University Press, 1996, 261 pp

This collection of seven essays provides measured critiques of many of the existing theories of democracy, including the public choice school of Buchanan and Tullock, John Rawls' theory of distributive justice, and Locke's theory of the labor origin of value. In the end he tends to favor minimalist approaches to democratic theory, like that of Joseph Schumpeter, which emphasize fair procedural rules over attempts to define distributive justice substantively. He argues sensibly that defining democracy in this fashion keeps the best from becoming the enemy of the good when applied to real-world situations like the emerging democratic order in South Africa. Shapiro's approach is also more realistic because it takes into account the actual political processes by which democratic outcomes must be attained -- a point that escapes many theorists.