The victor will not be asked later whether he had spoken the truth or not.

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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 suggests that America has unwittingly morphed into a new strange kind of political hybrid, on where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled – an “inverted totalitarianism”.

As Wolin portrays the nation, it is at best 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, but is instead a close collaborator. While Wolin makes clear that today’s America is in no way morally or politically comparable to totalitarian states like Nazi Germany, he warns that unchecked economic power has its own unnerving pathologies.

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

SHELDON S. WOLIN is a professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University. He books include Politics and Vision and Tocqueville between Two Worlds (both Princeton).


Managed democracy is centered on containing electoral politics; it is cool, even hostile toward social democracy beyond promoting literacy, job training, and other essentials for a society struggling to survive in the global economy. Managed democracy is democracy systematized p. 47

The citizenry is being displaced, severed from a direct connection with the legislative institutions that are supposed to “stand in” for the people. If the main purpose of elections is to serve up pliant legislators for lobbyists to shape, such a system deserves to be called “misrepresentative or clientry government.” It is, at one and the same time, a powerful reason for characterizing the system as one of antidemocracy. p. 59

We support the election process, we support democracy, but that doesn’t mean we have to support governments that get elected as a result of democracy. – President George W. Bush p. 137

I think the best part of this job is to set in motion big changes of history – it’s unbelievably exciting to be in a position to do that. – President George W. Bush p. 184

— Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, Princeton University Press, 2008.


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