Favourite Thinkers IX: Robert Dahl R.I.P.

Via Thomas Gregerson’s Political Theory blog, I see that Robert Dahl died last week, aged 98. Dahl is one of my favourite thinkers about democratic politics, not least because he theorised on the basis of an analysis of contemporary conditions, because he thought of democracy as a way of doing politics, and also because he had a low-level geographical imagination – from debates about community power, investigations of democracy and size, contributions to debates about the boundary problem, through to considerations of the value of representation in democratic politics. None of this was expressed in the wobbly ontological registers that have served as the medium of convergence between political theory and spatial disciplines, and nor was Dahl a political philosopher like Rawls. But Dahl’s understanding of the political dynamics of democracy’s changing forms (see Democracy and its critics) is a much better ground for critical thinking than one finds in either of those fields, which tend to either look backwards to a canon or ‘upwards’ to perfect styles of reasoning for their points of reference.

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