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The Irony of Democracy Paperback – 15 Jan 2003

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"Thomas R. Dye is currently Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Florida State University. He received his B.S. and M.A degrees from Pennsylvania State University and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of numerous books and articles on American government and public policy. He has served as President of the Southern Political Science Association, President of the Policy Studies Organization, and Secretary of the American Political Science Association. He is the recipient of the Harold Lassell Award for career of contributions to the study of public policy, and the Donald C. Stone Award for career contributions to the study of federalism. He received the Outstanding Alumni Award in 2001 from Penn State's College of Liberal Arts. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Georgia, and served as visiting scholar at Bar-Elan University, Israel, and the Brookings Institution, Washington, and elsewhere."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The quality most introductory book don't have. 6 Dec. 2003
By "legal_geek" - Published on
Format: Paperback
"The Irony of Democracy" was my college-level introduction to American politics, and I feel it provided me something far greater than any of the political/historical texts I read in high school. Instead of the same details of Democrats as the longest political party and Columbus crossing the ocean blue in 1492, Dye and Zeigler focus on the current United States political agendas and attempt to unravel how and why this country has developed as it has.
The thing that I liked best about this text is that it reads more like a novel than a textbook. It explains United States politics in an engaging way that forces the reader to react. Dye and Zeigler support that America is an elitist nation, and back up their argument with an analysis of government structure (primary elections, electoral college, what it takes to REALLY make it into Congress) and interaction between governmental branches and the American public (through political action committees, interest groups, and the media). Also interesting are the facts presented on similarities between political parties as an effort to reach the "middle ground."
If your instructor recommends this book, expect a class that will take you far beyond the nuts and bolts of American politics; expect to make your own conclusions on what may make the United States a stronger nation, why you should challenge the system from time to time, and actually learn WHY and HOW politics work the way that they do. The class you take may end up requiring more thought or effort on your part if this is one of the required readings, but you will come out of the class more informed, wary, and enlightened about what really governs our actions and thoughts as masses.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Non-Voters Like Me Are Good for the Country! 4 Feb. 2003
By mwreview - Published on
Format: Paperback
I read this book for an introductory political science course in junior college and I enjoyed it so much that, although I was not planning to be a political science major, I decided not to sell this book back to the college. This textbook is a thorough , well-written, and well-organized study of the basics of American democracy (or republicanism, if you will). The authors are brutally honest in their overview of the American democratic system. The irony of democracy?: "Elites-not masses-govern the United States" and, my favorite, "that democratic ideals survive because the masses are generally apathetic and inactive" (the masses breed intolerance, you see). Among the fifteen chapters is one entitled "Elite-Mass Communication: Television, the Press, and the Pollsters," which I found to be very interesting.
22 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Should be required reading in government schools 26 July 2000
By - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book came to my attention as I was studying for my BA in Political Science and has been one of the the foundations for my political perspective ever since.
Some of the other reviews really don't get it, but it is really pretty simple and pretty disturbing
1. this is a republican form of government, not a pure democracy
2. any move towards a pure democracy usually comes at the expense of liberty, which is why our founding fathers set the system up as they did
3. the average guy on the street, if given the chance, would be motivated to actually vote away the bill of rights most likely because he is an ignorant product of government schooling. this is the most disturbing fact in the book and supported with more than adequate research - that our democracy actually has more support within what are commonly called elite groups than it has among the "common" man
4. despite what the left wing pundits say, having a multiplicity of players in the political game (including corporations) is a desirable thing because the competing elites tend to check and cancel each other out. This is called the theory of democratic pluralism.
5. told you it was easy, now comes the hard part ending the influence of the teacher's union on national politics
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Life Altering 21 Jan. 2009
By S. Kelley - Published on
Format: Paperback
Decades ago The Irony of Democracy sat upon the thrift store shelf, literally whispering to me, calling out to be read. Forking over the twenty-five cent piece (US currency) I boldly strode to the abode and commenced devouring the words within.

Over the years I read the book again then yet again. Ultimately, over a 35 year period, I believe the total number of readings has been either five or six.

Each time I interpreted the words, sentences, paragraphs and more in different ways as my knowledge base and, I hope, my wisdom, very slightly expanded as I amassed knowledge and wisdom from extensive non-fiction reading from many subject areas along with life experience.

I must warn thee, my fellow Americans, that perhaps it MAY be best for you to ignore this book. To shun it. To flee if you espy it and to avert your eyes wherever it appears.

"Why, you Disgruntled Old Coot?" I can imagine you shouting out in wonderment.

Because... you may, possibly, perhaps, be altered into some form of disgruntled yourself.

This book, combined with gained knowledge from other sources along with my individual life experience has altered the indoctrination/brainwashing all Americans are exposed to from our earliest years from a bewildering variety of sources.

Once I was a much less complex creature, blindly believing that what our Founders created was, though imperfect as is all that is human created, a truly wondrous entity of governing. So immersed was I in the indoctrination I ignored so much evidence to the contrary and also enlisted in the USA military, prancing off to two overseas tours to "defend" the USA and Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic; ready to sacrifice my life "for the cause."

But, The Irony of Democracy opened my eyes and the neural pathways nestled within my most empty head.

As I shrugged off the indoctrination over time AND learned what the Founders created and how the federal government is supposed to operate (information not delivered to most Americans via the mass media, babbling politicians spewing their rhetoric and our educational system, especially at the K-12th grade levels) I became disgusted, angered, ill-at-ease, many negative emotions and thought processes that I eventually became hostile towards the federal government, America's elite class and many other systems, sub-systems, institutions, bureaucracies, etc. that comprise many parts of that which, as a whole, is labeled the USA.

Yes, there IS much good about the USA but too many of the institutions we are immersed in are corrupt, usurped by an elite class who abandoned the "honor" the Founders apparently intended to guide the elite class through the centuries.

From the jack-booted thugs to corporate America to wealthy/powerful special interest groups, the intended power of "We, the People", has been cast aside as an upper-crust has continually spat upon the masses of citizenry while walking upon our backs, shoving too many of us face first into the mire of economic despair.

Distanced from the citizenry by vast expensive bureaucracies run and manned by a multitude of bureaucrats and their underlings, the lackeys and minions of the elite class are too-often loyal to their elite masters who divvy out the pay and benefits and pensions. What became of loyalty to country, to freedom, to the concept of "We, the People"? Lost to greed and indoctrination.

Read The Irony of Democracy at your own peril.

Perhaps your indoctrination, other readings and life experience will NOT turn you against the establish order, the status quo.

But if you are affected as was I, life is not quite so squeaky clean. Anger may rise within you, perhaps to the point where loyalty to many aspects of the USA is reduced, perhaps eliminated.

Maybe you will become one of the apparently growing numbers of citizens believing the current regime within their compounds at Washington DC and elsewhere does not deserve to remain and must be replaced... yet, the status quo and in-placed systems do not allow voting to make any meaningful change, leaving only what? Revolution? Insurrection? Military coup? Civil war?

As stated, read the book at your own risk. Life may be better, happier, simpler and care-free if you avoid this book-type and just remain one of the bleating sheep citizenry and accept the indoctrination intended to keep you passive and accepting, even supportive, of the elite class created status quo.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Republicans Read... 12 Oct. 2005
By Ryan P. Stiner - Published on
Format: Paperback
Tearing through the apathetic and thoughtless reviews throughout this page prompted me to commnt on them. I read this book in one day and coming from a semi-wealthy household of 5 I appreciate how the author is truly brutally honest. The problems with our government revolve around the greedy, elitist conservatives who only wish to gain power in office to ensure a financially secure future. As for the true public discourse, this book not only outlines what the democratic rhetoric is but how it better serves for a basis of all injustices throughout the government. If you like Al Franken, you will surely love this book, filled with rich, semi-didactic information about our ailing country.
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