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Erik Moberg ã:
A Theory of Democratic Politics
 
 

2.2 - THE LEGALISTIC PRINCIPLE DISREGARDED: EXAMPLES

I wrote in part 2 that the legalistic principle is often overlooked in political science, and a few examples may therefore be in order. The principle is obviously disregarded when the power of various actors, whether they belong to the legal decision-making system or not, is treated on equal terms.

The first example of this kind of disregard is taken from V. O. Key, Jr. He writes as follows about the "American democratic order" (1964, p 6 f): "Actual authority tends to be dispersed and exercised not solely by governmental officials but also by private individuals and groups within the society. ... On one matter the President's decision may govern; on another, the wishes of the heads of a half-dozen industrial corporations will prevail; on a third, organized labor or agriculture will win the day; and on still another, a congressionally negotiated compromise completely satisfactory to none of the contenders may settle the matter. Even the journalists may cast the deciding vote on some issues."

Another, very recent, example is taken from Peter Esaiasson and Sören Holmberg. In their book "Representation from above" about the Swedish democracy they devote a whole chapter to "Power in Society" (1996, chapter 9). There they discuss the power of 8 groups and institutions in exactly the same manner, and by using, for all groups, exactly the same terms. The groups or institutions are "The Cabinet", "Mass Media", "Trade Unions (LO)", "Parliament", "Civil Servants", "Employer Organisation (SAF)", "Private Business", and "The Electorate". This, again, constitutes a clear disregard of the legalistic principle.