"The Clash of Rights" by Paul M. Sniderman

The Clash of Rights Liberty, Equality, and Legitimacy in Pluralist Democracy Paul M. Sniderman, Joseph F. Fletcher, Peter Russell, Philip E. Tetlock

Publication date:
27 Nov 1996
Yale University Press
304 pages: 235 x 156mm

Why do citizens in pluralist democracies disagree collectively about the very values they agree on individually? This provocative book highlights the inescapable conflicts of rights and values at the heart of democratic politics.
Based on interviews with thousands of citizens and political decision makers, the book focuses on modern Canadian politics, investigating why a country so fortunate in its history and circumstances is on the brink of dissolution. Taking advantage of new techniques of computer-assisted interviewing, the authors explore the politics of a wide array of issues, from freedom of expression to public funding of religious schools to government wiretapping to antihate legislation, analyzing not only why citizens take the positions they do but also how easily they can be talked out of them. In the process, the authors challenge a number of commonly held assumptions about democratic politics. They show, for example, that political elites do not constitute a special bulwark protecting civil liberties; that arguments over political rights are as deeply driven by commitment to the master values of democratic politics as by failure to understand them; and that consensus on the rights of groups is inherently more fragile than on the rights of individuals.

Paul M. Sniderman is professor of political science at Stanford University. Joseph F. Fletcher is associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Peter H. Russell is University Professor in the department of political science at the University of Toronto. Philip E. Tetlock is professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

"A useful and thought-provoking study of the rights conflicts and Canadian popular and elite political attitudes toward them. . . . [This book] raise[s] hard questions about some widely accepted theories of liberal democracy and on a larger scale, suggests the complexity of political discourse and public policy formation in the late modern state."?Barry Wright, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

"This profoundly innovative book challenges received wisdom about one of democracy's central empirical questions, the capacity of citizens to enter into reasoning about democracy's very foundations."?Richard Johnston, University of British Columbia

"For many years, Sniderman and his colleagues have sparked the social sciences through innovation in their survey methods and provocation in the results teased from those methods. This book tops the rest. Not only does it break through the frustratingly rigid bounds of conventional survey research, but also it requires us to rethink cherished assumptions about the importance of political elites, the durability of "core" values, and the very meaning of the liberal democratic nation-state."?Jennifer L. Hochschild, Princeton University

"A very useful book. . . . Thought-provoking and contentious, and a mine of useful insight and information."?Allen Mills, Toronto Globe & Mail

"[A] fascinating and informative study."?Choice

"This book's contributions are significant far beyond Canadian politics. . . . It enriches our understanding of both electoral politics and value pluralism. Clash of Rights is outstanding political science, and recommended for scholars and advanced students of public opinion, empirical methods, and democratic theory."?Bette Novit Evans, Perspectives on Political Science

"A masterful and disquieting analysis of the politics of rights in a democratic state. . . . The authors' findings are gripping and provocative."?Donna Greschner, American Journal of Sociology

"[A] coherent dissection of the contestability of rights issue in a multicultural and politically charged context."?Mahmood Monshipouri, International Affairs