Michael Parenti's Democracy for the Few (, , ) is one of the more recent examples of an interesting genre of books: grotesque radical caricature of . The Parenti text challenges students, perhaps for the first time, to critically assess the dominant pluralist paradigm; that it invites students to consider the ubiquity. Democracy identifies the general processes causing democratization and de- democratization at a national level across the world over the last few hundred.
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Editorial Reviews. Review. "Democracy for the Few is a radical text that will educate, entertain, inspire, and provoke students to read, think, and be critical. "Democracy for the Few is a radical text that will educate, entertain, inspire, and provoke students to read, think, and be critical." - Dan Brook, Ph.D., San Jose. Democracy for the Few NINTH EDITIONMichael Parenti, Ph.D. www. caite.infotralia • Brazil • Japan • Korea.
Would you like to tell us about a lower price? Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link. Thus a major emphasis is placed throughout the book on the political economy of public policy. It meant liberty to invest, speculate, trade, and accumulate wealth without encroachment by the common populace. In the second part of the paper I will try to argue that both the character and the practice of populism underline, and more or less consciously derive from, a vision of democracy that can become deeply inimical to political liberty insofar as it defers the political dialectics among citizens and groups, revokes the mediation of political institutions, and maintains an organic notion of the body politic.
By focusing on the relationship between economic power and political power, discussing actual government practices and policies, conspiracies, propaganda, fraud, secrecy and other ploys of government and politics, this book stands apart in its analysis of how US Government works.
Important Notice: Media content referenced within the product description or the product text may not be available in the ebook version. Read more Read less. Kindle Cloud Reader Read instantly in your browser. Customers who bought this item also bought. Page 1 of 1 Start over Page 1 of 1. The Democratic Debate: American Politics in an Age of Change. Breaking Through Power: Ralph Nader. Censored The Global Power Elite. Peter Phillips. Khalil Bendib. Editorial Reviews Review "Democracy for the Few is a radical text that will educate, entertain, inspire, and provoke students to read, think, and be critical.
I find it hard to imagine a better text! This book will make your students understand how the American government functions while forcing them to think for themselves. Even if you don't agree with the viewpoint taken by Parenti, this book will help spark invaluable classroom discussions.
William A. Pelz, Elgin Community College.
Michael Parenti has taught political and social science at a number of colleges and universities, and now devotes himself full time to writing and guest lecturing. He is an internationally known, award winning author who has published 21 books, including: God and His Demons ; Contrary Notions: Various writings of his have been translated into some twenty languages.
His publications, including previous editions of Democracy for the Few, have been read and enjoyed by students, lay readers, and scholars, and have been used extensively in hundreds of college courses across the country. Parenti lectures frequently throughout North America and abroad.
His various talks and interviews have played widely on radio, television, and the Internet. Some articles of his have been published in magazines, newspapers, websites, and scholarly journals, including American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Social Research, and New Political Science. For more information, visit his website: Product details File Size: Cengage Learning; edition March 10, Publication Date: March 10, Sold by: Cengage Learning Language: English ASIN: Not enabled X-Ray for Textbooks: Share your thoughts with other customers.
Some conspiracies are imagined; some are real. And some of the real ones are part of the political structure, not exceptions to it. My hope is that this new edition continues to prove useful to both students and lay readers. Updated discussions and new materials for just about every policy area including the environment, growing economic inequality, new attempts at regulation, health care, and the hardships of working America.
New materials on attempts to suppress the popular vote through fraud, disinformation, and coercion, including the , , and elections. My thanks also to Sushila Rajagopal, the project manager. He is an internationally known, award-winning author who has published twenty-one books, including God and His Demons ; Contrary Notions: Various writings of his have been translated into some twenty languages. His publications, including previous editions of Democracy for the Few, have been read and enjoyed by students, lay readers, and scholars, and have been used extensively in hundreds of college courses across the country.
Parenti lectures frequently throughout North America and abroad. His various talks and interviews have played widely on radio, television, and the Internet. Some articles of his have been published in magazines, newspapers, websites, and scholarly journals, including American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Social Research, and New Political Science.
For more information, visit his Web site: William A. Pelz, Elgin Community College Dr. Joseph F. Jozwiak, Jr. Thornton, Ph. Vardy, Ph. What are the major forces shaping political life? Who governs in the United States? Who gets what, when, how, and why? Who pays and in what ways? These are the questions pursued in this book. The United States was founded upon a Constitution fashioned to limit political authority and check abuses of power.
Government decision makers are kept in check by their need to satisfy the electorate in order to remain in office. The people do not rule directly but they select those who do. Thus, government decisions are grounded in majority rule—subject to the restraints imposed by the Constitution for the protection of minority rights.
The United States is a nation of manifold social and economic groups in which every significant group has a say and no one group chronically dominates. These institutional arrangements have given us a government of laws and not of individuals, which, while far from perfect, allows for a fairly high degree of liberty and popular participation. This view of the United States as a happy, pluralistic polity assumes that existing political institutions operate with benign effect; that power is not 1 2 Chapter 1 highly concentrated nor heavily skewed toward those who control vast wealth; and that the state is a neutral entity with no special linkage to those who own the land, technology, and capital of this and other societies.
These key assumptions will be challenged in the pages ahead. The theme of this book is that our government more often serves the privileged few rather than the general public, principally advancing the interests of the haves at the expense of the rest of us. The law is usually written and enforced in highly discriminatory ways. This democracy for the few is a product not only of the venality of particular officeholders but a reflection of the entire politicoeconomic system, the way the resources of power are distributed and used.
To be sure, the American people are not always passive victims or willing accomplices to all this. The mass of ordinary people have made important political and economic gains, usually after long and bitter contests that have extended beyond the electoral process.
This democratic struggle is an important part of the story that will be touched upon in the pages ahead. In a word, seemingly distinct issues and social problems are often interrelated.
The political system comprises the various branches of government along with the political parties, laws, lobbyists, and private-interest groups that affect public policy. By public policy, I mean the decisions made by government. Policy decisions are seldom neutral. They usually benefit some interests more than others, entailing social costs that are seldom equally distributed. The shaping of a budget, the passage of a law, and the development of an administrative program are all policy decisions, all political decisions, and there is no way to execute them with neutral effect.
If the wants of all persons could be automatically satisfied, there would be no need to set priorities and give some interests precedence over others; indeed, there would be no need for politics.
Politics extends beyond election campaigns and the actions of government. Decisions that confine certain matters—such as rental costs or health care—to the private market are highly political, even if seldom recognized as such. Power in the private realm is generally inequitable and undemocratic and often the source of conflicts that spill over into the public arena, for instance, management-labor disputes, and racial and gender discrimination.
Someone once defined a politician as a person who receives votes from the poor and money from the rich on the promise of protecting each from the other. And former President Jimmy Carter observed: Politics is more than just something politicians do.
It is the process of conflict and conflict resolution among private interests carried into the public arena. Politics involves not only the competition among groups within the system but the embattled efforts to change the system itself, not only the desire to achieve predefined ends but the struggle to redefine ends and pose alternatives to the existing politico-economic structure. Certainly they are necessary for everything else government does, from delivering the mail to making war. The very organization of the federal government reflects its close involvement with the economy: Likewise, most of the committees in Congress can be identified according to their economic functions, the most important having to do with taxation and appropriations spending.
Politics and economics are two sides of the same coin. Economics is concerned with the production and distribution of scarce resources, involving conflicts between social classes and among groups and individuals within classes. Much of politics is a carryover of that struggle. Both politics and economics deal with the survival and material well-being of millions of people; both deal with the fundamental conditions of social life itself.
This close relationship between politics and economics is neither neutral nor merely coincidental. Governments evolve through history in order to protect accumulations of property and wealth. In nomadic and hunting societies, where there is little surplus wealth, governance is rudimentary and usually communal.
In societies where wealth and property are controlled by a select class of persons, a state develops to protect the interests of the haves from the have-nots.
As John Locke wrote in They also, Marx included, saw government as the institution that carried out more general functions such as building bridges, protecting the populace from crime, setting standard weights and measures for trade, and the like.
But most important of all, just about every theorist and practitioner of politics in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries thought of the state as the protector of propertied wealth. Unlike most theorists before him, Marx was one of the first in the modern era to see the existing relationship between wealth and power as undesirable and exploitative, and this was his unforgivable sin.
The tendency to avoid critical analysis of corporate capitalism persists to this day among business people, journalists, and most academics.
Power belongs to those who possess the resources that enable them to shape and influence the actions and beliefs of others, such resources as jobs, organization, technology, publicity, media, social legitimacy, expertise, essential goods and services, organized force, and—the ingredient that often determines the availability of these things—money.
Sometimes the complaint is made: This book is predicated on the notion that it is desirable and necessary for democratic citizens to examine the society in which they live, possibly as a step toward making fundamental improvements.
It is unreasonable to demand that we refrain from making a diagnosis of an illness until we have perfected a cure. For how can we hope to find solutions unless we really understand the problem? In any case, improvements and solutions are offered in the closing chapter and elsewhere in this book. Political life is replete with deceit, corruption, and plunder.
Small wonder that many people seek to remove themselves from it. But whether we like it or not, politics and government play a crucial role in determining the conditions of our lives. People can leave political life alone, but it will not leave them alone. They can escape its noise and nonsense but not its effects. If the picture that emerges in the pages ahead is not pretty, this should not be taken as an attack on the United States, for this country and its people are greater than the abuses perpetrated upon them by those who live for power and profit.
To expose these abuses is not to denigrate the nation that is a victim of them. The greatness of a country is to be measured by something more than its rulers, its military budget, its instruments of dominance and destruction, and its profiteering giant corporations. The men who gathered in Philadelphia in strove to erect a strong central government. In fact, from colonial times onward, men of influence received vast land grants from the crown and presided over estates that bespoke an impressive munificence.
By , three-fourths of the acreage in New York belonged to fewer than a dozen persons. In the interior of Virginia, seven individuals owned over 1.
By , fewer than five hundred men in five colonial cities controlled most of the commerce, shipping, banking, mining, and manufacturing on the eastern seaboard.
In the period from the American Revolution to the Constitutional Convention — , the big landowners, merchants, and bankers exercised a strong influence over politico-economic life, often dominating the local newspapers that served the interests of commerce. Property qualifications for holding office were so steep as to exclude even most of the White males who could vote. In addition, the absence of a secret ballot and of a real choice among candidates and programs led to widespread discouragement.
But these actions required the assent of at least nine states. It was unable to compel the people—through taxation—to contribute to the full payment of the public debt, most of which was owed to wealthy private creditors. The delegates to Philadelphia wanted a stronger central power that would a resolve problems among the thirteen states regarding trade and duties, b protect overseas commercial and diplomatic interests, c effectively propagate the financial and commercial interests of the affluent class, and d defend the very wealthy from the competing claims of other classes within the society.
It is c and d that are usually ignored or denied by too many textbook writers. Most troublesome to the framers of the Constitution was the insurgent spirit evidenced among the people. Most historians say little about the plight of the common folk in early America. Most of the White population consisted of poor freeholders, artisans, A Constitution for the Few 7 tenants, and indentured servants, the latter entrapped in payless servitude for years.
A study of Delaware farms at about the time of the Constitutional Convention found that the typical farm family might have a large plot of land but little else, surviving in a one-room house or log cabin, without barns, sheds, draft animals, or machinery. The farmer and his family pulled the plow. Small farmers were burdened by heavy rents, ruinous taxes, and low incomes.
To survive, they frequently had to borrow money at high interest rates. To meet their debts, they mortgaged their future crops and went still deeper into debt. Interest rates on debts ranged from 25 to 40 percent, and taxes fell most heavily on those of modest means.
Economic prisoners crowded the jails, incarcerated for debts or nonpayment of taxes. Angry armed crowds in several states began blocking foreclosures and forcibly freeing debtors from jail. In the winter of , impoverished farmers in western Massachusetts led by Daniel Shays took up arms.
Their rebellion was forcibly put down by the state militia after several skirmishes that left eleven men dead and scores wounded.
The framers of the Constitution could agree with Madison when he wrote also in Federalist No. The first are the rich and the wellborn, the other the mass of the people. The delegates spent many weeks debating and defending their interests, but these were the differences of merchants, slaveholders, and manufacturers, a debate of haves versus haves in which each group sought safeguards in the new Constitution for its particular concerns.
Added to this were disagreements about constitutional structure. A Constitution for the Few 9 How might the legislature be organized? How much representation should the large and small states have? How should the executive be selected? The founders decided on a bicameral legislation, consisting of a House of Representatives elected every two years in its entirety and a Senate with sixyear staggered terms. It was decided that seats in the House would be allocated among the states according to population, while each state, regardless of population, would have two seats in the Senate.
On these issues, there were no poor farmers, artisans, indentured servants, or slaves attending the convention to proffer an opposing viewpoint. Ordinary working people could not take off four months to go to Philadelphia and write a constitution.
The debate between haves and have-nots never took place. Not surprisingly, Article I, Section 8, that crucial portion of the Constitution that enables the federal government to serve the interests of investment property, was adopted within a few days with little debate. Some of the delegates were land speculators who invested in western holdings. Accordingly, Congress was given the power to regulate and protect all western territorial property.
Most of the delegates speculated in government securities, inflated paper scrip that the earlier Confederation had issued to pay soldiers and small suppliers. Wealthy speculators bought from impoverished holders huge amounts of these nearly worthless securities for a trifling. Under Article VI, all debts incurred by the Confederation were valid against the new government, a provision that allowed the speculators to reap enormous profits by cashing in the inflated scrip at face value.
The payment of the debt came out of the pockets of the general public and went into the pockets of moneyed individuals who were creditors to the government by virtue of their possessing the inflated scrip. This federally assumed debt consumed nearly 80 percent of the annual federal revenue during the s. Slavery—considered a major form of property—was afforded special accommodation in the Constitution. This gave the slave states a third more representation in Congress than was otherwise merited.
This disproportionate distribution of seats helped the slave interests to pass laws that extended slavery into new territories and discouraged Congress from moving toward abolition.
The Constitution never abolished the slave trade. Indeed, the importation of slaves was explicitly guaranteed for another twenty years until , after which there would be the option—but no requirement—that it be abolished.
Many slaveholders assumed they would have enough political clout to keep the trade going beyond that year. Slaves who escaped from one state to another had to be delivered up to the original owner upon claim, a provision Article IV, Section 2 that was unanimously adopted at the Convention.
This measure was to prove a godsend to the industrial barons a century later when the U. Army was used repeatedly to break mass strikes by miners and railroad and factory workers. They separated the executive, legislative, and judicial functions and then provided a system of checks and balances between the three branches, including staggered elections, executive veto, the possibility of overturning the veto with a two-thirds majority in both houses, Senate confirmation of appointments and ratification of treaties, and a bicameral legislature.
They contrived an elaborate and difficult process for amending the Constitution, requiring proposal by two-thirds of both the Senate and the House and ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures. The propertyless majority, as Madison pointed out in Federalist No. Not only should the low-income majority be prevented from coalescing, its upward thrust upon government also should be blunted with indirect forms of representation.
Direct popular election of the Senate was achieved in when the Seventeenth Amendment was adopted— years after the Philadelphia Convention—demonstrating that the Constitution is sometimes modifiable in a democratic direction, though it does seem to take a bit of time.
Senatorial elections were to be staggered, with only a third of the Senate facing election every two years, thereby minimizing a sweeping change. The president was to be selected by an electoral college whose members, by , were elected by the people in only five states, and by state legislatures or county sheriffs in the other eleven states.
As anticipated by the framers, the Electoral College would act as a damper on popular sentiment. It was believed they usually would be unable to muster a majority for any one candidate, and that the final selection would be left to the House, with each state delegation therein having only one vote.
The Supreme Court was to be elected by no one, its justices being appointed to life tenure by the president, with confirmation by the Senate.
The only portion of government to be directly elected by the people was the House of Representatives. Many of the delegates were against this arrangement. They were concerned that with direct elections demagogues would ride into office on a populist tide only to pillage the treasury and wreak havoc on the wealthy class. Will such men be the secure and faithful Guardians of liberty?
Even among those African Americans who had gained their freedom in both North and South, few were allowed to vote. In a groundbreaking book published in , historian Charles Beard famously argued that the framers were guided by the interests of their affluent class.
Disputing Beard are those who say that the framers were concerned with higher things than just lining their purses. True, they were moneyed men who profited directly from policies initiated under the new Constitution, but they were motivated by a concern for nation building that went beyond their particular class interests. That is exactly the point: The fallacy is to presume that there is a dichotomy between the desire to build a strong nation and the desire to protect wealth and that the framers could not have been motivated by both.
In fact, like most other people, they believed that what was good for themselves was ultimately good for their country.
Indeed, the problem is that most people too easily and self-servingly believe in their own virtue. The founders were no exception. They never doubted the nobility of their effort and its importance for the generations to come. The point is not that they were devoid of the grander sentiments of nation building, but that there was nothing in their concept of nation that worked against their class interest and a great deal that worked for it.
The framers may not have been solely concerned with getting their own hands in the till, although enough of them did, but they were explicitly concerned with defending the interests of the wealthy few from the laboring many. What was at stake for Hamilton, Livingston, and their opponents was more than speculative windfalls in securities; it was the question, what kind of society would emerge from the revolution when the dust had settled, and on which class the political center of gravity would come to rest.
Not too long before, many of them had been proponents of laissez-faire and had A Constitution for the Few 13 opposed a strong central government. In truth, it was not their minds that were so much broader but their economic interests.
Their motives were no higher than those of any other social group struggling for place and power in the United States of But possessing more time, money, information, and organization, they enjoyed superior results. Though supposedly dedicated to selfless and upright goals, the delegates nevertheless bound themselves to the strictest secrecy.
Proceedings were conducted behind locked doors and shuttered windows despite the sweltering Philadelphia summer.
Deliberating behind closed doors, these wealthy men gave voice to the crassest class prejudices and most disparaging opinions about popular involvement.
Their dedication to their propertied class interests were so unabashedly avowed as to cause one delegate, James Wilson of Pennsylvania, to complain of hearing too much about how the primary object of government was property. The cultivation and improvement of the human mind, he maintained, was the most noble objective of the polity—a fine sentiment that evoked no opposition from his colleagues as they continued about their business.
The Constitution furnished special provisions for the slaveholding class and for a rising bourgeoisie. For the founders, liberty meant something different from democracy. It meant liberty to invest, speculate, trade, and accumulate wealth without encroachment by the common populace. The democratic civil liberties designed to give all individuals the right to engage in public affairs won little support from the delegates.
If the Constitution was such an elitist document, how did it manage to win ratification? It was strongly opposed in most of the states. The Federalists also used bribes, intimidation, and fraud against their opponents. What is more, the Constitution never was submitted to a popular vote. Ratification was by state conventions, each composed of delegates drawn mostly from the same affluent stratum as the framers.
Those who voted for these delegates themselves usually had to qualify as property holders. Probably not more than 20 percent of the adult White males voted for delegates to the ratifying conventions. Consider the following: No property qualifications were required for any federal officeholder, unlike in England and most of the states.
And salaries were provided for all officials, thus rejecting the common practice of treating public office as a voluntary service that only the rich could afford. No one could claim a life tenure on any elective office. Bills of attainder, the practice of declaring by legislative fiat a specific person or group of people guilty of an offense, without benefit of a trial, were made unconstitutional.
Also outlawed were ex post facto laws, the practice of declaring some act to be a crime and then punishing those who had committed it before it was made unlawful. There was strong popular sentiment for a Bill of Rights. In order to ensure ratification, supporters of the new Constitution pledged the swift adoption of such a bill as a condition for ratification.
So, in the first session of Congress, the first ten amendments were swiftly passed and then adopted by the states. These rights included freedom of speech and religion; freedom to assemble peaceably and to petition for redress of grievances; the right to keep arms; freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; freedom from self-incrimination, double jeopardy, cruel and unusual punishment, and excessive bail and fines; the right to a fair and impartial trial; and other forms of due process.
The Bill of Rights, specifically the Ninth Amendment, explicitly acknowledges that the people have a reserve of rights that go beyond the Constitution. Religion was to be something apart from government, supported only by its own believers and not by the taxpayer—a stricture that often has been violated in practice.
Contrary to the notion propagated today by many religionists, the founders did not establish this nation upon religious principles. Benjamin Franklin openly questioned the divinity of Jesus.
If the delegates in Philadelphia were intent upon inaugurating a Christian republic, why does the Constitution contain not a single reference to God, Jesus, or Christianity? It guaranteed a republican form of government and explicitly repudiated monarchy and aristocracy; hence, Article I, Section 9 states: Yet few dared venture in that direction out of fear of popular opposition.
Furthermore, delegates like Madison believed that stability for their class order was best assured by a republican form of government. The time had come for the rich bourgeoisie to rule directly without the troublesome intrusions of parasitic nobles and kings. On a number of occasions during the Philadelphia Convention, this assemblage of men who feared and loathed democracy found it necessary to show some regard for popular sentiment as with the direct election of the lower house.
If the Constitution was going to be accepted by the states and if the new government was to have any stability, it had to gain some measure of popular acceptance.
While the delegates and their class dominated the events of —, they were far from omnipotent. The class system they sought to preserve was itself the cause of marked restiveness among the people. Land seizures by the poor, food riots, and other violent disturbances occurred throughout the eighteenth century in just about every state and erstwhile colony.
This popular ferment spurred the framers in their effort to erect a strong central government, but it also set a limit on what they could do. They kept what they could and grudgingly relinquished what they felt they had to, driven not by a love of democracy but by a fear of it, not by a love of the people but by a prudent desire to avoid riot and insurgency. The Constitution, then, was a product not only of class privilege but of class struggle—a struggle that continued as the corporate economy and the government grew.
Poverty and overcrowding brought cholera and typhoid epidemics, causing the wealthy to flee the cities, while the poor—having nowhere to go and no way to get there even if they did—stayed and died. Living in misery, many impoverished people were addicted to alcohol and drugs mostly opium. Children as young as nine and ten toiled fourteenhour shifts, falling asleep at the machines they tended, suffering from malnutrition and sickness.
Slaves were used to lay railroads, construct oil lines, harvest tobacco and cotton, and dig for coal, salt, and marble. For more than sixty years, well into the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of indigent African Americans were forced to toil at construction sites, railroads, mines, and large farms under slave labor conditions. Arrested for trivial offenses such as gambling or foul language, they had to work off the inflated costs of their keep, which they invariably were unable to do.
Subjected to whippings and torture, unsafe work conditions, and wretched food and housing, tens of thousands perished. One of the biggest users of this convict slave labor was a subsidiary of U.
Steel Corporation. Civil authorities intervened almost invariably on Rise of the Corporate State 19 the side of the owning class to quell disturbances and crush strikes. Four anarchist leaders—none of whom had been present—were tried and hanged for having printed appeals some days earlier that supposedly inspired the incident.
The two strike leaders were dragged from jail and lynched. In , Pinkerton gun thugs hired by a steel company killed nine striking steel workers in Homestead, Pennsylvania. The strike was eventually broken by the National Guard. In , U.
Army troops killed thirty-four railroad workers who were among those on strike against the Pullman company. Over the next few years, scores of striking coal miners were murdered.
In , faced with a general strike that began in Seattle and spread elsewhere, the U. Attorney General arrested more than , workers in seventy cities across the nation. That same year in Arkansas, over one hundred striking cotton pickers were massacred by U. In , the Chicago police fired upon a peaceful crowd of striking steel workers, killing ten and wounding over forty. An additional six strikers were killed on picket lines in Ohio.
The industrial barons regularly called state militia and federal soldiers to their assistance. The same government that could not find the constitutional 20 Chapter 3 means to eliminate contaminated foods and befouled water supplies could use federal troops to break strikes, shoot hundreds of workers, and slaughter thousands of Native Americans. And statutes intended to outlaw monopolies and trade conspiracies were rarely used except against labor unions.
While insisting that competition worked best for all, most business people showed little inclination to deliver themselves to the exacting imperatives of an untrammeled free market. Instead they resorted to ruthless business practices to squeeze out competitors. So by the s, John D. At the same time the big corporations gorged themselves at the public trough, battening on fat government contracts, subsidies, land grants, and protective tariffs.
The Constitution makes no mention of corporations. For the first few decades of the new nation, corporate charters were issued sparingly for specific purposes and fixed periods, usually of twenty or thirty years. Corporations could not own stock in other corporations or any land beyond what they needed for their business. Corporate records were open to public scrutiny; and state legislatures limited the rates that corporations could charge.
In time, with the growing power of the business class, all such democratic controls were eliminated, and corporations emerged as powers unto themselves.
The idea of a fair price and safe product for consumers was replaced with the doctrine of caveat emptor let the buyer beware. Workers were killed or maimed in unsafe work conditions, without employers being held liable. This benevolent government handed over to its friends or to astute first comers, … all those treasures of coal and oil, of copper and gold and iron, the land grants, the terminal sites, the perpetual rights of way—an act of largesse which is still one of the wonders of history.
The Tariff Act of was in itself a sheltering wall of subsidies; and to aid further the new heavy industries and manufactures, an Immigration Act allowing contract labor to be imported freely was quickly enacted; a national banking system was perfected. Yet democratic struggle persisted. In pursuit of a living wage and decent work conditions, labor unions repeatedly regrouped their shattered ranks to fight pitched battles against the industrial moguls. One important victory was the defeat of the Rise of the Corporate State 21 Southern slavocracy in the Civil War and the abolition of legalized slavery.
During Reconstruction — the former Confederate states were put under federal military occupation. The new state governments set up in the South by the U. Congress decreed universal suffrage for males of all races and incomes, along with popular assemblies, fairer taxes, schools for the poor, and some limited land reform.
But once the Northern capitalists allied themselves with the Southern oligarchs and put an end to Reconstruction, better to face their joint struggles against laborers and farmers, most of these democratic gains were rolled back, not to be recouped until well into the next century—if then. During the — period, known as the Progressive Era, federal laws were enacted to protect consumers and workers from unsafe conditions in such industries as meatpacking, food and drugs, banking, timber, and mining.
Often these regulations mandated expensive improvements and safety features that were designed to advantage the strongest companies at the expense of smaller competitors. Neither William Howard Taft nor Woodrow Wilson, the other two White House occupants of that period, launched any serious operations against big business.
Wilson, a Democrat, railed against giant trusts but his campaign funds came from a few rich contributors. He worked with associates of Morgan and Rockefeller about as closely as any Republican.
Several states passed minimum-wage laws, and thirty-eight states enacted child labor laws restricting the age children could be employed and the hours they could work. Even so, much of the reform legislation went unenforced or proved ineffectual.
Millions toiled twelve- and fourteen-hour days, six or seven days a week. According to government figures, 2 million children had to work in order to supplement the family income. As of , millions worked for wages that could not adequately feed a family.
Each year 35, were killed on the job, while , suffered serious injuries and work-related disabilities. Large sectors of the economy were converted to war production along lines proposed by business leaders. Strikes were now treated as seditious interference with war production. Federal troops raided and ransacked union headquarters and imprisoned large numbers of workers suspected of radical sympathies.
Harsh sentences were dealt out to labor organizers, socialists, and anarchists. Later that year, the U. Attorney General proudly told Congress: The public was treated to lurid stories of how the Bolsheviks Russian Communists were about to invade the United States, and how they were murdering anyone in their own country who could read or write or who wore a white collar.
Indeed its expressive language is acclamation more than discussion. A populist leader is not properly elected: Moreover, to be democratic, an election needs to allow the expression of dissent.
From this crucial principle it follows that democracy entails the rule of the majority, not that of unanimity. On the contrary, the investi- ture of the leader by the people does not allow for, or does not appreciate, the expression of dissent. Those who are not among the acclaiming followers are unseen, unheard and unconsidered, when not repressed.
In a populist assembly there is no need to count votes and acknowledge minorities, because the leader will be a leader of the whole, not simply of the majority. Acclamation is not a form peculiar to representative democracy; moreover, it is antithetical to democ- racy. Indeed one of the basic principles of democratic government is accountabil- ity to the people.
An invested leader is free from any mandate on the part of the people; hence he is accountable only to himself. In populist regimes, elections have a perfunctory character. In a representative democracy, votes are drawn by each elector individually; and electors are independent of one another, neither identical nor identifiable.
Voting is not a collective act even if it is a public act; it is an individual act performed by citizens as singular. With acclamation, on the contrary, what counts as a method of selection is the emotional and unmediated reaction; a reaction, moreover, not of individual citizens but of a homogeneous mass within which no one counts by himself but only as a part of the whole.
One of the reasons that persuade scholars to bring populism close to democ- racy is the presence of the masses and their collective mobilization. This analogy, however, is misleading, above all if we reflect upon the character of the assembly in democracy. Because there is a clear perception that it is not simply the presence of the people en masse that counts as a democracy. In pre-Periclean Athens, people were assembled to listen to the speeches of their eminent leaders, but they had no voice.
After all, this was the main difference between Sparta and Athens. Nadia Urbinati In both ancient and modern times, the conquest of political democracy has coincided with the conquest of individual universal suffrage, according to the crucial idea that democracy means not mass mobilization or mass organization, but equal freedom of expression of each as single, not of the totality. No doubt, democratic politics also means collective action, but in this case, too, collectivity implies the actual cooperation of individuals in a common projct.
To pay attention to the character of the assembly is thus very important. Post- Cartesian and post-Hobbesian republicans, such as Harrington and, moreover, Rousseau, admired Sparta more than Athens because, contrary to Machiavelli and the humanist republicans, they were annoyed by popular assemblies engaged in disputations and rhetoric and, above all, expressing and highlighting social conflicts.
Harrington acknowledged discussion and individual freedom of expres- sion only in the Senate, where the wisest were gathered,37 while Rousseau, who contemplated only one assembly, thought of it as a laconic place. Precisely because unanimity — or at least the largest majority possible —, should be the goal of the assembly, Rousseau linked the existence of a few good laws to a thorough language and the simplicity of the mores. The less sophisticated the people, the less inclined they are to rhetorical controversies and debate: Peace, union, equality are enemies of political subleties.
Upright and simple men are difficult to deceive on account of their simplicity. Rousseau did not blur indi- vidual citizens into the anonymous totality of the assembly, not least because he thought that citizens would fly to the assembly one by one and would make up their own minds autonomously.
It is the definition of the general will as an uncon- troversial truth that guarantees the right outcome of the final deliberation. Reason unifies the citizens, not a demagogue. A silent or a mono-tonic assembly is not a faithful portrait of a democratic assembly, at least if by democracy we mean also disputation, disagreement, oppo- sition; in a word, plurality.
Democracy ought to be seen both from the perspective of the winner the majority and of the defeated minorities. What distinguishes it from populism which is an extreme expression of majoritarianism is that populism is essentially cross-eyed. Thus it can be maintained consistently with the democratic principle of sovereignty only once democracy has been stripped of its isonomic character — a character that in modern times has been guaranteed through a liberal emendation of the Spartan kind of democracy inherited from post-Cartesian republicanism.
Hence, if one does not want to renounce a notion of democracy that incorporates the limitation of power, a bill of rights, and discus- sion as the peculiar form of political life, one is forced to conclude that populism is not an expression of democracy. To take this claim seri- ously, however, requires not confining democracy solely to a quest for political power, as populism does. Indeed, democracy is also a claim for an extension of the values of equality and non-domination to those sectors of social life where those values are still impotent.
In other words, the project of democratization should orient itself also outside the space of political power and toward civil soci- ety at large. More consistently, it means that domination is not only a political phenomenon and that the political sphere is not its only niche; and finally that a democracy that incorporates the liberal constraints can become an instrument for pursuing a wider project of democrati- zation.
Far from being an indication of impotence, those constraints give to the democratic state the legitimization to encourage a consistent politics of democra- tization insofar as they place the state under control. On the other side, in the hands of a populist democracy, that very politics would actually become a fright- ening strategy of social incorporation and homogeneity.
Populism does not seem to be able to solve the riddle of either being minoritarian or becoming despotic.
Harry S. Stout, The New England Soul. Oxford University Press, , — Nadia Urbinati 3. Harvard University Press, , 12— Its Meaning and National Characteristics, ed.
Ghita Ionescu and Ernest Gellner, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, , 16— Michael Kazin, The Populist Passion. An American History, New York: Basic Books, , 2. University of California Press, Sinclair London: Penguin Books, This opinion finds confirmation in recent studies on populist movements outside Europe. Macmillan, , 91— Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia.
An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge, trans. Wirth and E. Shils New York: Laterza, , — Aristotle, Politics IV: Before this transformation, Gauchet writes, the intellectuals played the role of intermedi- aries.
They transcended their specialization while enriching citizens with their critical competence. The only criticism that our societies seem willing to cultivate today is the militant confusion and the demagoguery of simplicity.
Princeton University Press, , 11— Capitalism-Fascism-Populism London: NLB, , —