Tyranny of the Minority

The Subconstituency Politics Theory of Representation

by Benjamin Bishin

Why do politicians frequently heed the preferences of small groups of citizens over those of the majority? Breaking new theoretical ground, Benjamin Bishin explains how the desires of small groups, which he calls “subconstituencies,” often trump the preferences of much larger groups.

Demonstrating the wide applicability of his “unified theory of representation,” Bishin traces politicians' behavior in connection with a wide range of issues, including the Cuban trade embargo, the extension of hate-crimes legislation to protect gay men and lesbians, the renewal of the assault-weapons ban, and abortion politics. In the process, he offers a unique explanation of when, why, and how special interests dominate American national politics.


  • Temple University Press; March 2009
  • ISBN: 9781592136605
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Tyranny of the Minority
  • Author: Benjamin Bishin
  • Imprint: Temple University Press

In The Press

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} “In Tyranny of the Minority, Bishin makes a valuable contribution to the literature by asking why minorities sometimes get their way over majority wishes. He makes a compelling case, presenting the conflicting implications of majoritarian representation models. This is a very well-written, clear and interesting book, and Bishin’s work invites vigorous future debate. If you are interested in democratic theory, the logic of representation, and congress in general, you will want to read this book.”—Robin Kolodny, Temple University

"The power of some minority groups to continually fend off majority interests through democratic representation has long been under-theorized. Bishin's fascinating and empirically sophisticated account of subconstituency politics is a welcome remedy, and it is absolutely vital for any understanding of American democracy." —Paul Frymer, Princeton University


About The Author

Benjamin G. Bishin is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside.