Direct democracy

A comparative study of the theory and practice of government by the people

By Matt Qvortrup

Direct democracy


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2283-4
  • Pages: 168
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: January 2018
  • BIC Category: Politics, Politics & government, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, Society & social sciences / Political structures: democracy, Society & social sciences / Politics & government


Should citizens be allowed to propose legislation? Should they even be allowed to recall politicians if they do not live up to their expectations? These questions and many others form the subject of this timely book.

In addition to presenting an up to date review of the empirical literature, Direct democracy provides a survey of the political philosophers who have theorised about this subject. It is the central tenet in the book that the demand for direct democracy is a consequence of the demand for more consumer choices. Like consumers want individualised products, so voters want individualised and bespoke policies.

Described by the BBC as "The world's leading expert on referendums", the author, Matt Qvortrup, draws on his experience as a political advisor to the US State Department, as well as his extensive academic knowledge of direct democracy.


As we hurtle forward into the twenty-first century with its unparalleled availability of information and communication technology, the world's great democracies continue to be organized around eighteenth-century principles of representative governance. Professor Qvortrup's new book illustrates the powerful new modes of direct political participation that are emerging around the globe - most important, the initiative and referendum - and shows how democratic government can be updated and augmented to better meet the challenges of our modern world.
Professor John Matsusaka, Charles F. Sexton Chair in American Enterprise at the University of Southern California

The originality and great value of the book lies in the ability of the author to step back from traditional constitutional or political scientist approaches of the subject, and to view the referendum in its present, contemporary, context... [and] the insightful analysis of the conception of direct democracy among political Machiavelli or Marsilius of Padua, Condorcet and Carl Schmitt.
Professor Laurence Morel, University of Lille, France


Introduction: Bespoke Democracy
1. The political theory of direct democracy: the theoretical justification for citizen involvement
2. Citizen initiated referendums: an empirical assessment
3. The legislative initiative: a comparative analysis of the experiences in EU countries
4. Hasta la vista: a comparative institutionalist analysis of the recall
5. Can the voters be trusted: the case of European integration?
6. Rebels without a cause? a case study of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty
7. The British referendum on the Alternative Vote in comparative perspective
8. Judicial review of direct democracy
9. Regulation of direct democracy international impressions, tendencies and patterns
Conclusion: The age of supply-side politics?


Matt Qvortrup is Professor of Political Science at Coventry University and holds the James Walston Chair of International Relations at the American University of Rome

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