Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy

Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy

by Elaine Tyler May


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An award-winning historian argues that America's obsession with security imperils our democracy in this "compelling" portrait of cultural anxiety (Mary L. Dudziak, author of War Time).

For the last sixty years, fear has seeped into every area of American life: Americans own more guns than citizens of any other country, sequester themselves in gated communities, and retreat from public spaces. And yet, crime rates have plummeted, making life in America safer than ever. Why, then, are Americans so afraid-and where does this fear lead to?

In this remarkable work of social history, Elaine Tyler May demonstrates how our obsession with security has made citizens fear each other and distrust the government, making America less safe and less democratic. Fortress America charts the rise of a muscular national culture, undercutting the common good. Instead of a thriving democracy of engaged citizens, we have become a paranoid, bunkered, militarized, and divided vigilante nation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465055920
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 12/12/2017
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Elaine Tyler May is the Regents Professor of American Studies and History at the University of Minnesota. The award-winning author of five books and the former president of the American Studies Association, May lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Table of Contents


The Bunker Mentality 1

Chapter 1 Gimme Shelter: Security in the Atomic Age 13

Chapter 2 The Color of Danger: From Red to Black 57

Chapter 3 Vigilante Virtue: Fantasy, Reality, and the Law 97

Chapter 4 Women: Victims or Villains? 125

Chapter 5 Locked-Up America: Self-Incarceration and the Illusion of Security 161


Back to the Future: The Twenty-First Century 181

Acknowledgments 195

Notes 199

Index 237

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