The Institute for Freedom & Community to Host Democracy for Realists Author Larry Bartels

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At the November 1 event, Bartels will discuss the parallels between his recent book and the presidential election.

The Institute for Freedom and Community

The Institute for Freedom & Community at St. Olaf College will host an event on November 1 with Larry Bartels, professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. Bartels will discuss the parallels between his recent book, Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government, and the presidential election.

“Democracy for Realists and the 2016 Presidential Election”
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Tomson Hall 280
St. Olaf College, 1520 St. Olaf Avenue, Northfield, Minn.

In Democracy for Realists, Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels argue that political behavior is shaped more by social identities and partisan loyalties than by sober consideration of policies and government performance. As a result, voters do not control the course of public policy, even indirectly. Bartels’ lecture will apply this “realistic” view of democracy to the 2016 election.

Democracy for Realists, co-authored with Achen of Princeton University, assails the romantic folk-theory at the heart of contemporary thinking about democratic politics and government, and offers a provocative alternative view grounded in the real human nature of democratic citizens. It has been called “an instant classic,” “a major contribution to modern social science,” “courageous,” “unsettling,” “brutally depressing,” and “the single most important treatise on American democracy published in several decades.” 

Bartels holds the May Werthan Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University. His scholarship and teaching focus broadly on American democracy, including public opinion, electoral politics, public policy, and political representation. His books include Presidential Primaries and the Dynamics of Public Choice, Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, and Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government. 

Bartels was educated at Yale University, where he earned his B.A. and M.A., and at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his Ph.D. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2011, following stints at the University of Rochester and Princeton University. He is a trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation, co-director of Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, and past vice president of the American Political Science Association. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and the National Academy of Sciences.

To learn more about the event or The Institute, visit

About The Institute
The Institute for Freedom & Community was established at St. Olaf College, a private liberal arts college, in 2015 to encourage free inquiry and meaningful debate of important political and social issues. The Institute programs, including coursework, Public Affairs Conversation, public affairs internships, and public lectures, aim to challenge assumptions, question easy answers, and foster constructive, respectful dialogue among those with differing values and contending points of view.

About St. Olaf College
One of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges, St. Olaf College offers a distinctive education grounded in academic rigor, residential learning, global engagement, and a vibrant Lutheran faith tradition. By cultivating the habits of mind and heart that enable graduates to lead lives of financial independence, professional accomplishment, personal fulfillment, and community engagement, St. Olaf College provides an uncommon educational experience that fully prepares students to make a meaningful difference in a changing world.

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Rachel Enerson
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