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Author Ahmed, Amel F
Title Constituting the electorate: Voting system reform and working class incorporation in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, 1867--1913
book jacket
Descript 245 p
Note Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 67-07, Section: A, page: 2731
Adviser: Rogers M. Smith
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Pennsylvania, 2006
The dissertation investigates the politics of institutional choice in the process of democratic development, and particularly, the choice of electoral institutions. I compare movements for voting system reform, which emerged in response to suffrage expansion in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States between 1867 and 1913. These were movements to change the way in which raw votes were translated to seats in legislative bodies. Reformers aimed to replace the existing majoritarian systems with minority or proportional representation. Scholars have explained voting system reform as either a natural part of democratization or as an instance of partisan electoral engineering. In contrast, I argue that these movements for voting system reform can best be understood as a response to working class demands for political incorporation. Specifically, this was a project aimed at establishing "elite democracy". Reformers sought to use minority representation to dilute the influence of working class majorities in legislative bodies and enhance that of the elite minority. To this end, they pursued policies that conflicted with democratic principles and jeopardized their partisan electoral interests. I demonstrate that the strength of voting system reform movements varied with the emergence of electorally viable and ideologically radical working class parties. The institutional outcome of the movements was the result of the constraints on policy makers and the viable alternatives available to them. I show that even where movements for voting system reform failed, elites were able to devise alternatives that would serve their goal of enhancing elite influence over policy-making. I argue that such efforts to advance an elite-centered model of governance are an enduring feature of democratic politics, and that the resulting institutional arrangements may establish significant barriers to popular participation
School code: 0175
Host Item Dissertation Abstracts International 67-07A
Subject History, European
History, United States
History, Modern
Political Science, General
Sociology, Social Structure and Development
Alt Author University of Pennsylvania
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