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Democracy and Justice

A Review of Gerry Mackie’s Democracy Defended, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 2003, 483 pp.

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Mackie’s volume is a path-breaking, thorough, and innovative overview of the subject of social choice and its implications for understanding democracy. It is made up of various lines of analysis including historical interpretation, a review of massive numbers of statistical studies and a careful analysis of numerous aspects of the logical proof of Kenneth Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem. It will be ‘must reading’ for all who wish to understand democracy given the work in the social choice field over the last 50 years. On the other hand, it has its shortcomings. By focusing on a particular school of attackers of democracy (led by William Riker), the book becomes less balanced and less useful than it might be. Most unfortunately, Mackie does not take the plunge to see what positive elements flow from such related fields as theories of justice. Finally, by avoiding these other fields, the centrality of politics in the pursuit of justice is one of the implications of the analysis that is missed.

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Correspondence to Joe Oppenheimer.

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Oppenheimer, J. Democracy and Justice. Soc Just Res 18, 83–98 (2005).

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  • voting cycles
  • democratic theory
  • justice
  • Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem