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About Stein Ringen

Stein Ringen is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford. His book on the Chinese state, The Perfect Dictatorship, will be published this year. Contact him here.

Articles by Stein Ringen

This week’s front page editor


Sunny Hundal is openDemocracy’s social media editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Brexit and the British constitution: it doesn't work

If Parliament is sovereign and wants to vote, it votes. If someone else (the government) is in a position to “give” it the right to vote, it is not sovereign.

Was Machiavelli a democrat? Is he relevant today?

However you read The Prince, it is a reminder that the elementary condition of good government is effective government.

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China and the embarrassment of western democracy

The trouble for democracy does not come from Beijing, or from globalisation, or from abroad, or, in Britain, from immigration or from Europe. It resides at home.

Parliamentarians - wake up!

The author launches a new blog with a message on Brexit – parliament wake up! Former Labour parliamentarian replies on how to correct the imbalance exploited by Thatcher, Blair and May.

My 350 on BREXIT: Responsibility

"I am entitled to shout this from the mountaintop since I have been asking since the referendum was called: How are political decisions made in this country?"

My 350 on BREXIT: Earthquake

“For my part, my sentiment is not just embarrassment, but shame. That we should choose the coward’s way of turning on the EU in its moment of need.”

A democratic case for Catalan independence?

Spain would be irrevocably changed if Catalonia secedes. Therefore this should be a choice not just for the Catalan people, but for all Spanish people.

Beijing tightens the screws

The Chinese state is now more ideological and more repressive than ever since the days of Mao.

Is Chinese autocracy outperforming western democracy?

The author suggests that China’s regime could put itself to a referendum – a democratic referendum against electoral democracy. He expects it would win that referendum. Book review.

Democracy in America, part 6: What's wrong with democracy in America?

What happens when transgression from a big and biased backstage arena is institutionalised, is that power shifts: from the public good to corporate interests. The sophisticated organisational work of the Koch brothers is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a future role here for Mr.Obama.

Democracy in America, part 5: What's wrong with Congress?

Obstructive members of Congress blame others, of course, the president in particular, but the failing institution in America’s constitutional system is Congress itself. Power has shifted. 

Democracy in America, part 4: What's wrong with the Supreme Court?

Why the president and members of Congress are as fearful as they are now of criticizing a politicized Court which behaves as badly as this one does, is difficult to understand.

Democracy in America, part 3: What's wrong with court activism?

The present Supreme Court is activist in all three meanings of the term: it accepts cases that it should not take on, is systematically biased in its rulings, and rules more broadly than it needs.

Democracy in America, part 2: What's wrong with signing statements?

In his first election campaign, President Obama committed to ending this habit of undermining legislation – but he's continued to do it nevertheless.

Democracy in America, part 1: What's wrong with gerrymandering?

Introducing a system that enables the powerful to cheat democracy and to disenfranchise voters.

Britain – the state of the nation

The New York Times has called it a ‘crisis of identity.’ I think that is to put too much blame on the British people. I would call it a crisis of leadership. 

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