Democracy From Above?


People are increasingly unhappy with their governments in democracies around the world. In countries as diverse as India, Ecuador, and Uganda, governments are responding to frustrations by mandating greater citizen participation at the local and state level. Officials embrace participatory reforms, believing that citizen councils and committees lead to improved accountability and more informed communities. Yet there’s been little research on the efficacy of these efforts to improve democracy, despite an explosion in their popularity since the mid-1980s. Democracy from Above? tests the hypothesis that top-down reforms strengthen democracies and evaluates the conditions that affect their success.

Listen to a recent podcast about Democracy from Above? here.

Reviews from the press:

“Fed up with government, people around the world are electing outsiders who pledge to tear government down. Stephanie McNulty explores how national governments are attempting the difficult task of fixing democracy by promoting local democratic participation. Anyone who is frustrated with our democracy and eager to make it better should heed the book’s lessons.”

—Josh Lerner, Co-Executive Director, Participatory Budgeting Project

Democracy from Above should be obligatory reading for scholars and practitioners of participatory democracy. Stephanie McNulty offers a welcome corrective to both naive enthusiasm and uncritical disenchantment with citizen engagement. Leveraging the very best of comparative designs alongside a wealth of empirical evidence, this book is a powerful exemplar of the new political science.”

—Gianpaolo Baiocchi, New York University