Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

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by Sheldon S. Wolin
     
 

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Democracy is struggling in America--by now this statement is almost cliché. But what if the country is no longer a democracy at all? In Democracy Incorporated, Sheldon Wolin considers the unthinkable: has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled

Overview

Democracy is struggling in America--by now this statement is almost cliché. But what if the country is no longer a democracy at all? In Democracy Incorporated, Sheldon Wolin considers the unthinkable: has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation check its descent into what the author terms "inverted totalitarianism"?

Wolin portrays a country where citizens are politically uninterested and submissive--and where elites are eager to keep them that way. At best the nation has become a "managed democracy" where the public is shepherded, not sovereign. At worst it is a place where corporate power no longer answers to state controls. Wolin makes clear that today's America is in no way morally or politically comparable to totalitarian states like Nazi Germany, yet he warns that unchecked economic power risks verging on total power and has its own unnerving pathologies. Wolin examines the myths and mythmaking that justify today's politics, the quest for an ever-expanding economy, and the perverse attractions of an endless war on terror. He argues passionately that democracy's best hope lies in citizens themselves learning anew to exercise power at the local level.

Democracy Incorporated is one of the most worrying diagnoses of America's political ills to emerge in decades. It is sure to be a lightning rod for political debate for years to come.

In a new preface, Wolin describes how the Obama administration, despite promises of change, has left the underlying dynamics of managed democracy intact.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Winner of the 2008 Lannan Notable Book Award

"If democracy means more than occasional elections and protection of those rights that are compatible with economic and political elites' interests, Wolin's analysis of our democratic predicament is shocking, solid, and fundamentally correct."--C.P. Waligorski, Choice

"Of the many books I've read or skimmed in the past seven years that attempted to get inside the social and political debacles of the present, none has had the chilling clarity and historical discernment of Sheldon S. Wolin's Democracy Incorporated. Building on his fifty years as a political theorist and proponent of radical democracy, Wolin here extends his concern with the extinguishing of the political and its replacement by fraudulent simulations of democratic process."--Jonathan Crary, Artforum

"[W]e need to understand the deep roots of our present troubles ourselves and Wolin's book is an excellent beginning."--Toby Grace, Out in Jersey

"Sheldon Wolin has produced an ambitious and broad-ranging book that examines the current state of democracy in America. . . . Wolin argues that the unquestioned faith in the virtues of free market capitalism has dramatically narrowed the range of policy options that are on the table when debate turns to resolving the US's ills. . . .[T]his is a trenchant and powerful volume."--Alex Waddan, International Affairs

Choice
If democracy means more than occasional elections and protection of those rights that are compatible with economic and political elites' interests, Wolin's analysis of our democratic predicament is shocking, solid, and fundamentally correct.
— C.P. Waligorski
Artforum
Of the many books I've read or skimmed in the past seven years that attempted to get inside the social and political debacles of the present, none has had the chilling clarity and historical discernment of Sheldon S. Wolin's Democracy Incorporated. Building on his fifty years as a political theorist and proponent of radical democracy, Wolin here extends his concern with the extinguishing of the political and its replacement by fraudulent simulations of democratic process.
— Jonathan Crary
Out in Jersey
[W]e need to understand the deep roots of our present troubles ourselves and Wolin's book is an excellent beginning.
— Toby Grace
International Affairs
Sheldon Wolin has produced an ambitious and broad-ranging book that examines the current state of democracy in America. . . . Wolin argues that the unquestioned faith in the virtues of free market capitalism has dramatically narrowed the range of policy options that are on the table when debate turns to resolving the US's ills. . . .[T]his is a trenchant and powerful volume.
— Alex Waddan

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400834846
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
02/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
461,988
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

Rakesh Khurana
With his fundamental grasp of political theory and restless spirit to get at the essence of what threatens modern democracy, Wolin demonstrates that the threats to our democratic traditions and institutions are not always from outside, but may come from within. It is a book that policymakers and scholars of contemporary society should read and reflect upon.
Rakesh Khurana, Harvard Business School, author of "From Higher Aims to Hired Hands"
Anne Norton
Wolin's writing has a resonance that binds the canon of political philosophy to unfolding events and present circumstances. In Democracy Incorporated, he contends that the institutions and practices that Americans regarded as their defense against totalitarianism--and other forms of authoritarian domination--have failed them. There is nothing like this book. It is a major, potentially revolutionary contribution to political thought.
Anne Norton, author of "Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire"
Reich
As we've come to expect from Sheldon Wolin, a tightly argued and deeply revealing book about the dangers of unconstrained capitalism for our democracy.
Robert B. Reich, University of California, Berkeley
Marc Stears
Powerful and persuasive. Democracy Incorporated does exactly what great political theory should do: it provides a theoretical framework that allows the reader to see the political world anew. It left this reader with an almost nightmarish vision of American politics today, a nightmare all the more terrifying for being so compelling, so vivid, and so real.
Marc Stears, author of "Progressives, Pluralists, and the Problems of the State"
Raymond Geuss
For half a century, Sheldon Wolin has been one of the most distinguished and influential political theorists in the United States and a perceptive observer of the American political scene. In his magisterial latest book, Wolin shows himself at the height of his powers as he presents a highly original, sober, and persuasive account of a number of tendencies in contemporary American society that constitute a significant danger for the future of constitutional democracy. If totalitarianism establishes itself in the United States, it will be in the 'inverted' form Wolin analyzes in this important book.
Raymond Geuss, University of Cambridge

Meet the Author

Sheldon S. Wolin is professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University. His books include "Politics and Vision" and "Tocqueville between Two Worlds" (both Princeton).

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Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (New in Paper) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
TedMorgan More than 1 year ago
Professor Wolin's book deserves a careful, critical review that I am not able to write. The work very much impresses me. I think it an important and helpful work. Without way of French literary criticism or Frankfurt School theoretical sources, he presents a comprehensive and fundamental analysis of political and economic life in both the United States and the world. I had not realized at first that I had read Professor Wolin decades ago when I was an undergraduate. The argument is original, well-founded, even practical, and constructive. I will read it again soon and read it more closely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PIGEONPIE More than 1 year ago
HE TRIES TO MAKE AN ARGUMENT THAT THE PLUTOCRACY IN WASHINGTON IS RUN BY CORPORATE TECHNOCRATS AND THAT THEY WANT TO CREAT A FASCIST STATE.  HE RUNS INTO PROBLEMS WHEN HE TRIES TO ARGUE THAT THIS IS DIFFERENT FROM THE GOOD OLD FASHION FASCISM OF THE WORLD WAR II ERA.  BUT IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT HITLER'S, TOJO'S AMD MUSSOLINI'S INVOLVEMENT WITH CORPORATION AND TECHNOCRATS THAT RAISED THEM TO POWER YOU REALIZE THAT MR.WOLIN FAILS TO MAKE HIS ARGUMENT.