Wealth, Power, and the Constitution of Democratic Societies
Yale University Press
An investigation into the foundations of democratic societies and the ongoing struggle over the power of concentrated wealth
Much of our politics today, Paul Starr writes, is a struggle over entrenchment—efforts to bring about change in ways that opponents will find difficult to undo. That is why the stakes of contemporary politics are so high. In this wide†‘ranging book, Starr examines how changes at the foundations of society become hard to reverse—yet sometimes are overturned. Overcoming aristocratic power was the formative problem for eighteenth†‘century revolutions. Overcoming slavery was the central problem for early American democracy. Controlling the power of concentrated wealth has been an ongoing struggle in the world’s capitalist democracies. The battles continue today in the troubled democracies of our time, with the rise of both oligarchy and populist nationalism and the danger that illiberal forces will entrench themselves in power.
Entrenchment raises fundamental questions about the origins of our institutions and urgent questions about the future.
Paul Starr is professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, cofounder and founding coeditor of
The American Prospect magazine and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American History. He has published seven previous books including
The Social Transformation of American Medicine,
The Creation of the Media,
Freedom’s Power, and
Remedy and Reaction.
"With the depth of historic and political insight he is celebrated for, Paul Starr gives us a new and crucial lens through which to view what is happening in America—the entrenchment of great wealth through political power strong enough to lock in that wealth, and, hence, perpetuate its power. Starr’s great achievement is to view the struggle of our era not in narrow partisan terms, but through the framework of increasingly concentrated power, and to reveal the multiple ways it is changing the very definition of American society. A tour de force."—Robert B. Reich, author of
The Common Good and