Charles E. Lindblom

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Charles E. Lindblom
Born (1917-03-21) March 21, 1917 (age 97)
Citizenship American
Fields Politics
Institutions Yale University
Known for work on numerous political theories
Influences Robert A. Dahl
Influenced Robert A. Dahl

Charles Edward Lindblom (born March 21, 1917[1] ) is a Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Economics at Yale University. He is a former president of the American Political Science Association and the Association for Comparative Economic Studies and also a former director of Yale's Institution for Social and Policy Studies.

Academic work[edit]

Lindblom is one of the early developers and advocates of the theory of Incrementalism in policy and decision-making. This view (also called Gradualism) takes a "baby-steps", "Muddling Through" or "Echternach Theory" approach to decision-making processes. In it, policy change is, under most circumstances, evolutionary rather than revolutionary. He came to this view through his extensive studies of Welfare policies and Trade Unions throughout the industrialized world. These views are set out in two articles, separated by 20 years: "The Science Of 'Muddling Through'" (1959) and “Still Muddling, Not yet through” (1979), both published in Public Administration Review.

Together with his friend, colleague and fellow Yale professor Robert A. Dahl, Lindblom was a champion of the Polyarchy (or Pluralistic) view of political elites and governance in the late 1950s and early 1960s. According to this view, no single, monolithic elite controls government and society, but rather a series of specialized elites compete and bargain with one another for control. It is this peaceful competition and compromise between elites in politics and the marketplace that drives free-market democracy and allows it to thrive.

However, Lindblom soon began to see the shortcomings of Polyarchy with regards to democratic governance. When certain groups of elites gain crucial advantages, become too successful and begin to collude with one another instead of compete, Polyarchy can easily turn into Corporatism.

In his best known work, Politics And Markets (1977), Lindblom notes the "Privileged position of business in Polyarchy". He also introduces the concept of "circularity", or "controlled volitions" where "even in the democracies, masses are persuaded to ask from elites only what elites wish to give them." Thus any real choices and competition are limited. Worse still, any development of alternative choices or even any serious discussion and consideration of them is effectively discouraged.

An example of this is the political party system in the United States, which is almost completely dominated by two powerful parties that often reduce complex issues and decisions down to two simple choices. Related to this is the concurrent concentration of the U.S. mass communications media into an Oligopoly, which effectively controls who gets to participate in the national dialogue and who suffers a censorship of silence.

Politics And Markets provoked a wide range of critical reactions that extended beyond the realms of academia. The Mobil Corporation took out a full page ad in the New York Times to denounce it.[2] This helped the book achieve greater notoriety, which in turn helped it get onto the New York Times' Best Seller list (a rarity for a scholarly work). Due to his criticism of democratic capitalism and polyarchy, and also for his seeming praise for the political-economy of Tito's Yugoslavia, Lindblom was (perhaps predictably) labeled a "Closet Communist" and a "Creeping Socialist" by conservative critics in the west. Ironically, Marxist and Communist critics chided him for not going far enough. Originally, Dahl, too, disagreed with many of Lindblom's observations and conclusions; but in a recent work How Democratic Is the American Constitution? he also has become critical of polyarchy in general and its U.S. form in particular.

In The Market System: What It Is, How It Works, and What to Make of It (2001), Lindblom eloquently echoed and expanded upon many of his concerns raised in Politics And Markets. The most important of these is that while the Market System is the best mechanism yet devised for creating and fostering wealth and innovation, it is not very efficient at assigning non-economic values and distributing social or economic justice.

Select bibliography[edit]

  • The Market System: what it is, how it works, and what to make of it, Yale University Press, 2001.
  • The Policy-Making Process, 3rd. ed. with Edward J. Woodhouse, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993.
  • The Policy-Making Process, 2nd edition, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice- Hall, 1984.
  • Usable Knowledge: Social Science and Social Problem Solving with David K. Cohen, Yale University Press, 1979
  • Still Muddling, not yet through. Public Administration Review, 39, pp. 517–526, 1979.
  • Politics and Markets: The World's Political-Economic Systems, New York: Basic, 1977.
  • Politics, economics, and welfare : planning and politico-economic systems resolved into basic social processes, with Robert A. Dahl ; with a new pref. by the authors. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.
  • The Intelligence of Democracy, Free Press, 1965.
  • A Strategy of Decision: policy evaluation as a social process, with David Braybrooke. Free Press, 1963.
  • The Science Of 'Muddling Through'. Public Administration Review, 19, pp. 79–88, 1959.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "California, Birth Index, 1905-1995". Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  2. ^ Mobil Corporation, 'Business and Pluralism,' New York Times, 9 February 1978, A21

External links[edit]