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Joseph A. Schumpeter on Democracy - Dictionary of Arguments

Brocker I 260
Democracy/Schumpeter: For Schumpeter, the defining feature of democracy consists in placing a "competition for political leadership" (1) at the centre of attention. The core idea is: similar to the way companies compete for the favour of consumers,
Brocker I 261
politicians and parties are in competition for the favour of voters (2) - with the important difference that people are usually well informed in economic matters, but usually rationally ignorant in political matters (3).
What both systems have in common is the striving for one's own individual advantage.
Thesis: Modern democracy is a product of the capitalist process (4); however, two important prerequisites for the functioning of democracy in contemporary capitalism are no longer fulfilled: a) the ideal of the economical state (5) b) the basic social consensus.(6) Because of the expectation of large parts of the electorate to live at the expense of the state. (7)

1. Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, New York 1942. Dt.: Joseph A. Schumpeter, Kapitalismus, Sozialismus und Demokratie, Tübingen/Basel 2005 (zuerst: Bern 1946), p. 427.
2. Ibid p. 427-433
3. Ibid p. 407 – 420.
4. Ibid p. 471.
5. Ibid p.. 471f.
6. Ibid p. 473.
7. Ibid p. 472.

Ingo Pies, „Joseph A. Schumpeter, Kapitalismus, Sozialismus und Demokratie (1942)“ in: Manfred Brocker (Hg.) Geschichte des politischen Denkens. Das 20. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt/M. 2018.

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Gaus I 148
Democracy/Schumpeter/Dryzek: The model of democracy most popular among comparative politics scholars, especially those in the burgeoning field of democratic transition and consolidation, expects far less from democracy than do the deliberative democrats. This model is essentially that proposed long ago by Schumpeter (1942)(1): democracy is no more than competition among elites for popular approval that confers the right to rule. In the 1950s this idea became the foundation for 'empirical' theories of democracy happy with the generally apathetic role of the ignorant and potentially authoritarian masses (Berelson, 1952(2); Sartori, 1962(3)).
Competition models of democracy: Such competitive elitist models have
Gaus I 149
long been discredited among democratic theorists - not least those such as Dahl (1989)(4) who had earlier believed in them as both accurate descriptions of United States politics and desirable states of affairs. Yet they live on among transitologists and consolidologists, who see the hallmark of a consolidated democracy as a set of well-behaved parties representing material interests engaged in electoral competition regulated by constitutional rules (see, for example, Di Palma, 1990(5); Huntington, 1991(6); Mueller, 1996(7); Schedler, 1998(8)).
The deliberative democrat's concern with authenticity is nowhere to be seen. Active citizens play no role in such models.


1. Schumpeter, Joseph A. (1942) Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. New York: Harper.
2. Berelson, Bernard (1952) 'Democratic theory and public opinion'. Public Opinion Quarterly, 16: 313—30.
3. Sartori, Giovanni (1962) Democratic Theory. Detroit: Wayne State Umversity Press.
4. Dahl, Robert A. (1989) Democracy and its Critics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
5. Di Palma, Giuseppe (1990) To Craft Democracies. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
6. Huntington, Samuel (1991) The Third Wave. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
7. Mueller, John (1996) 'Democracy, capitalism and the end of transition'. In Michael Mandelbaum, ed. Postcommunism: Four Perspectives. New York: Council on Foreign Relations.
8. Schedler, A. (1998) 'What is democratic consolidation?' Journal ofDemocracy, 9: 91-107.


Dryzek, John S. 2004. „Democratic Political Theory“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

EconSchum I
Joseph A. Schumpeter
The Theory of Economic Development An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business Cycle, Cambridge/MA 1934
German Edition:
Theorie der wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung Leipzig 1912

Brocker I
Manfred Brocker
Geschichte des politischen Denkens. Das 20. Jahrhundert Frankfurt/M. 2018

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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