Congress and the American Tradition

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Overview

Most Americans would probably be surprised to hear that, in 1959, James Burnham, a leading political thinker questioned whether Congress would survive, and whether the Executive Branch of the American government would become a dictatorship. In the last decade, members of Congress have impeached a president, rejected or refused to consider presidential nominees, and appear in the media criticizing the chief executive. Congress does not exactly appear to be at risk of expiring. Regardless of how we perceive Congress today, more than forty years after Congress and the American Tradition was written, Burnham's questions, arguments, and political analysis still have much to tell us about freedom and political order.

Burnham originally intended Congress and the American Tradition as a response to liberal critics of Senator McCarthy's investigations of communist influence in the United States. He developed it into a detailed analysis of the history and functioning of Congress, its changing relationship with the Executive Branch, and the danger of despotism, even in a democratic society.

The book is organized into three distinct parts. "The American System of Government," analyzes the concept of government, ideology and tradition, power, and the place and function of Congress within the American government. "The Present Position of Congress," explores its law-making power, Congressional commissions, treaties, investigatory power, and proposals for Congressional reform. "The Future of Congress," discusses democracy and liberty, and ultimately asks, "Can Congress Survive?" Michael Henry's new introduction sheds much insight into Burnham's writings and worldview, combining biography and penetrating scholarly analysis. He makes it clear why this work is of continuing importance to political theoreticians, historians, philosophers, and those interested in American government.

James Burnham (1905-1987) began his career as a professor of philosophy at New York University. He co-founded, with William F. Buckley, Jr., The National Review. His books include The Managerial Revolution, The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom, and Suicide of the West.

Michael Henry received his advanced degree in political theory. He has been teaching philosophy at St. John's University in New York since 1977.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765809971
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/18/2003
  • Series: Library of Conservative Thought
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 363
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 8.86 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Henry is professor of philosophy at St. John’s University, New York. He is also the series editor of Transaction’s Library of Conservative Thought series. His work has appeared in Modern Age, The Hillsdale Review, and The Political Science Reviewer.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Transaction Edition
Acknowledgments
Pt. 1 The American System of Government
I The Miracle of Government 3
II Ideology and Tradition 16
III The Paradox of Sovereignty 34
IV The Diffusion of Power 45
V Power and Limits 62
VI Public and Private 75
VII The Place of Congress 91
VIII The Traditional Balance 103
Pt. 2 The Present Position of Congress
IX The Fall of Congress 127
X The Law-Making Power 140
XI The Rise of the Fourth Branch 157
XII The Purse 169
XIII And The Sword 184
XIV The Problem of Treaties 194
XV The Escape of the Treaty Power 205
XVI The Investigatory Power 221
XVII The Attack on Investigations 236
XVIII Theoretical Gravediggers 253
XIX The Case Against Congress 262
XX The Reform of Congress 271
Pt. 3 The Future of Congress
XXI Democracy and Liberty 281
XXII The Logic of Democratism 290
XXIII Conditions of Liberty 301
XXIV What Is a Majority? 311
XXV Leader of the Masses, Assembly of the People 317
XXVI Can Congress Survive? 333
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