Redeeming Democracy in America
American Political Thought
Sales Date: May 24, 2011
344 Pages, 6.13 x 9.25 in
- Published: May 2011
Wherever we turn in America today, we see angry citizens disparaging government, distrusting each other, avoiding civic life, and professing a hatred of politics and politicians of all stripes. Is our situation hopeless? Wilson Carey McWilliams wouldn't think so.
McWilliams, one of the preeminent political theorists of the twentieth century, was closely identified with an ambitious intellectual enterprise to reclaim and restore democracy as a source of national veneration, inspiration, and salvation. Better than most of his contemporaries, he understood and illuminated the major sources of the political malaise that afflicts our nation’s citizens. For him, the key to reinvigorating our republic depends on our ability to reclaim the “second voice” of American politics—the one that emanates from our literature, churches, families, and schools and speaks out on behalf of community and civic responsibility.
The writings gathered here cohere into McWilliams’s most mature and most developed philosophical statement—the distillation of a distinguished career of thinking about the American experiment. From insights into “The Framers and the Constitution” to reflections on “America as Technological Republic,” he shares a love for an older tradition of democracy, one based upon the active self-rule of self-governing citizens. “Protestant Prudence and Natural Rights” and “On Equality as the Moral Foundation for Community” may force readers to adjust their understandings of American politics, while “Democracy and the Citizen” and “Political Parties as Civic Associations” will resound for observers of the current political scene, regardless of party.
Carey McWilliams not only offers a prescient analysis of the current crisis in American citizenship and governance but also shows us what sources within the American tradition might exist to save us from our worst selves. His broad and iconoclastic approach to American politics should appeal to both conservatives and liberals—to anyone, in fact, who cares about the state of democracy in America.
"It takes a courageous political scientist to write [this] way in our jaded yet oddly gullible age. We are cynical about the possibilities of human dialogue and solidarity. But we are boundlessly naive about the merits of ‘social networking’ and technology. This is a dangerous combination. McWilliams saw it coming. We read him now for his felicities and his insights, and we are grateful he came our way."—Commonweal
"Will provide others with a deeper insight into the roots and sources of our political life."—First Things
“Dazzling. Carey McWilliams understood America—perhaps more deeply than any public intellectual in the past quarter century. This book offers us his bravura tour through American thought, history, literature, religion, law, and culture. It sparkles with wisdom, insight, and jeremiads. Powerful. Learned. Graceful. Omnivorous. Brilliant. An altogether exhilarating read.”—James A. Morone, author of The Democratic Wish
“A wonderful book by an important thinker.”—Harvey Mansfield, author of The Spirit of Liberalism
“Brilliant and timely, this treasure trove displays McWilliams’s unsurpassed gift for penetrating America’s political soul.”—Sidney M. Milkis, author of Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party, and the Transformation of American Democracy
Part I: American Foundations
1. Democracy and the Citizen: Community, Dignity, and the Crisis of Contemporary Politics in America
2. The Bible in the American Political Tradition
3. Protestant Prudence and Natural Rights
4. The Anti-Federalists, Representation, and Party
Part II: America's Two Voices
5. Science and Freedom: America as the Technological Republic
6. In Good Faith: On the Foundations of American Politics
7. The Discipline of Freedom
8. On Equality as the Moral Foundation for Community
Part III: American Politics, Public and Private
9. Ambiguities and Ironies: Conservatism and Liberalism in the American Political Tradition
10. Political Parties as Civic Associations
11. Democracy and Mystery: On Civic Education in America
12. National Character and National Soul
Bibliography: The Published Writings of Wilson Carey McWilliams