The State of Democracy in America

The State of Democracy in America

The State of Democracy in America

The State of Democracy in America


In this wide-ranging assessment of democracy in America today, fifteen respected scholars of American politics chart the strengths and weaknesses of the nation's democratic mechanisms and outline the challenges that lie ahead. They focus not on specific policies or elections but on the quality of American political life, the representativeness of its governing institutions, and the issues of racial and economic equity.

The contributors cover a broad spectrum of the American political process. Topics include the extent and nature of political participation, the relevance of political parties, political fundraising and its policy consequences, demographic change and its likely effect on the national political agenda, and the future of racial politics. Others explore how representative Congress really is today, how the market economy affects public policy, the use of impeachment as a political weapon, and the degree of corporate influence on the political process. A final chapter explores the circumstances likely to shape policy agendas over the course of the twenty-first century.

Taken together, these essays provide a clear picture of political evolution during the past fifty years and discuss possible problems and issues of the future. Written for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, the book is a thoughtful, well-documented, critical analysis of contemporary American democracy.


John F. Kennedy once said that “the United States has to move very fast to even stand still.” There is a good deal of truth in this. At present the nation is moving into a new age of globalized economics and interdependent political institutions, many evolving, others yet to be devised. the social changes in progress will be substantial, in the view of some a redesign of the social community as we know it.

At the same time, social problems exist and questions arise as to who will benefit from the new economic and social ordering, who will be left out, and what can be done to alleviate the transition and address the problems we already know to exist and those that are sure to develop. Maintaining a form of equitable sharing in the rewards to come and a vital and responsive democratic system in the face of concentrations of economic power and uncharted transnational institutions will provide one of the more formidable challenges for the nation in the new century.

The essays in this volume explore some of these concerns. the focus is on the quality of political representation, the adequacies of basic agencies of mass mobilization, and the policy areas of significance in progressing toward a more equitable, open, and accountable politics in the new era already underway.

Each essay is by an authority in the field with significant previous contributions to developing an understanding of the issues and concerns in the area being examined. a number of the chapters were originally given as papers in a national conference on “American Democracy Entering the Twentieth Century” sponsored by the Center for the Study of Comparative Democracy at Northeastern University. Others were commissioned to explore areas important for a broader understanding of the state of political society in the United States as it began the twenty-first century.

As editor, I would like to thank the staff of Georgetown University Press for their work in developing this publication; and at Northeastern University, President Emeritus John A. Curry, President Richard M. Freeland; former . . .

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