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Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

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Winner of a 2008 Lannan Notable Book Award, Lannan Foundation

Democracy is struggling in America--by now this statement is almost cliche. 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. Now with a new introduction by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Chris Hedges, Democracy Incorporated remains an essential work for understanding the state of democracy in America.

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Wolin Sheldon
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Sheldon S. Wolin (1922-2015) was professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University. His books include Politics and Vision and Tocqueville between Two Worlds (both Princeton).

Preface to the First Paperback Edition ix
Preface xvii
Acknowledgments xxv
Introduction to the 2017 Edition Chris Hedges xxvii
Preview 1
1 Myth in the Making 4
2 Totalitarianism’s Inversion: Beginnings of the Imaginary of a Permanent Global War 15
3 Totalitarianism’s Inversion, Democracy’s Perversion 41
4 The New World of Terror 69
5 The Utopian Theory of Superpower: The Official Version 82
6 The Dynamics of Transformation 95
7 The Dynamics of the Archaic 114
8 The Politics of Superpower: Managed Democracy 131
9 Intellectual Elites against Democracy 159
10 Domestic Politics in the Era of Superpower and Empire 184
11 Inverted Totalitarianism: Antecedents and Precedents 211
12 Demotic Moments 238
13 Democracy’s Prospects: Looking Backwards 259
Notes 293
Index 339

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