Schumpeter’s Not-So-Minimal Theory of Democracy
Joseph Schumpeter is taken as the canonical advocate of a minimal theory of democracy. His minimalism is both empirical — in that it assumes low levels of citizen competence and makes correspondingly low demands — and normative — in that it aims not to realise the ideal of collective self-rule but only, as Ian Shapiro puts it, to ‘control power by turning it into an object of electoral competition’. Yet Schumpeter also, in chapter 23 of Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, lays out a set of demanding conditions for the success of the democratic method. How are we to reconcile these rich demands with the idea of a ‘minimal’ or ‘realistic’ account of democracy? In this essay, Moore approaches this question by distinguishing two concepts of political competition, one as an antagonistic struggle, and one as a structured form of parallel striving producing third party benefits. Competition as antagonistic struggle invokes the idea that democratic minimalism provides an answer to the ‘first question’, how to create political order out of conflict, and Moore suggests that Schumpeter is not in this sense a minimalist. Then the essay turns to the idea of competition as parallel striving, and argues that while Schumpeter does not hold to the claim that competition generates responsiveness to electorates (the Hoteling-Downs thesis), he does recognise the need for significant limits on political competition in order to prevent it sliding into conflict. In the final section, Moore suggests some implications of this analysis for some recent defences of Schumpeterian democracy and more broadly for the way in which minimalism is framed within democratic theory today.
19 February 2020, 16:30 (Wednesday, 5th week, Hilary 2020)
Jesus College, Turl Street OX1 3DW
Harold Wilson Room. The Harold Wilson Room has slightly ramped access via Staircase 8. Spaces are limited. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Dr Alfred Moore (University of York)
Members of the University only