Counting the Many: The Origins and Limits of Supermajority Rule

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Cambridge University Press, Nov 18, 2013 - Political Science - 264 pages
Supermajority rules govern many features of our lives in common: from the selection of textbooks for our children's schools to residential covenants, from the policy choices of state and federal legislatures to constitutional amendments. It is usually assumed that these rules are not only normatively unproblematic but necessary to achieve the goals of institutional stability, consensus, and minority protections. In this book, Melissa Schwartzberg challenges the logic underlying the use of supermajority rule as an alternative to majority decision making. She traces the hidden history of supermajority decision making, which originally emerged as an alternative to unanimous rule, and highlights the tensions in the contemporary use of supermajority rules as an alternative to majority rule. Although supermajority rules ostensibly aim to reduce the purported risks associated with majority decision making, they do so at the cost of introducing new liabilities associated with the biased judgments they generate and secure.


Acclamation and Aggregation in
Unanimity and Supermajority Rule
Majority Rule
Constitutionalism without Supermajorities
Constitutionalism under Complex Majoritarianism

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About the author (2013)

Melissa Schwartzberg is an Associate Professor of Politics at New York University. She previously taught at George Washington University and Columbia University. She received her AB from Washington University, St Louis in 1996, and her PhD in 2002 from New York University. She is the author of Democracy and Legal Change (Cambridge, 2007) and of articles in leading journals including the American Political Science Review, the Journal of the History of Ideas, the Journal of Political Philosophy, and Political Theory. She is a 2013 recipient of the Mellon New Directions Fellowship. From 2010 to 2013, she served as the co-president of the Association for Political Theory.

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