Need help riding out the November nail-biter? Delve into this list of books for understanding today’s politics as voters across the United States cast early ballots and prepare to head to polls.
For two hundred years, conservatism has defied its reputation as a backward-looking creed by confronting and adapting to liberal modernity. By doing so, the Right has won long periods of power and effectively become the dominant tradition in politics. Yet, despite their success, conservatives have continued to fight with each other about how far to compromise with liberalism and democracy—or which values to defend and how. In Conservatism, Edmund Fawcett provides a gripping account of this conflicted history, clarifies key ideas, and illuminates quarrels within the Right today.
Despite playing a decisive role in shaping the past two hundred years of American and European politics, liberalism is no longer the dominant force it once was. In this expanded and updated edition of what has become a classic history of liberalism, Edmund Fawcett traces its ideals, successes, and failures through the lives and ideas of exemplary thinkers and politicians from the early nineteenth century to today.
Donald Trump’s election victory stunned the world. How did he pull it off? Was it his appeal to alienated voters in the battleground states? Was it Hillary Clinton and the scandals associated with her long career in politics? Were key factors already in place before the nominees were even chosen? Identity Crisis provides a gripping account of the campaign that appeared to break all the political rules—but in fact didn’t.
Conspiracy theories are as old as politics. But conspiracists today have introduced something new—conspiracy without theory. And the new conspiracism has moved from the fringes to the heart of government with the election of Donald Trump. In A Lot of People Are Saying, Russell Muirhead and Nancy Rosenblum show how the new conspiracism differs from classic conspiracy theory, why so few officials speak truth to conspiracy, and what needs to be done to resist it.
Our democracy today is fraught with political campaigns, lobbyists, liberal media, and Fox News commentators, all using language to influence the way we think and reason about public issues. Even so, many of us believe that propaganda and manipulation aren’t problems for us—not in the way they were for the totalitarian societies of the mid-twentieth century. In How Propaganda Works, Jason Stanley demonstrates that more attention needs to be paid. He examines how propaganda operates subtly, how it undermines democracy—particularly the ideals of democratic deliberation and equality—and how it has damaged democracies of the past.
Could understanding whether elections make people happy and bring them closure matter more than who they vote for? What if people did not vote for what they want but for what they believe is right based on roles they implicitly assume? This book invites readers on a unique journey inside the mind of a voter using unprecedented data from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, South Africa, and Georgia throughout a period when the world evolved from the centrist dominance of Obama and Mandela to the shock victories of Brexit and Trump.
One of the most vexing questions for the framers of the Constitution was how to create a vigorous and independent executive without making him king. In today’s divided public square, presidential power has never been more contested. The President Who Would Not Be King cuts through the partisan rancor to reveal what the Constitution really tells us about the powers of the president.
One of the most important books of the twentieth century, Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies is an uncompromising defense of liberal democracy and a powerful attack on the intellectual origins of totalitarianism. In a substantial new introduction written for this edition, acclaimed political philosopher Alan Ryan puts Popper’s landmark work in biographical, intellectual, and historical context.
One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes, “we have no theory.” Frankfurt, one of the world’s most influential moral philosophers, attempts to build such a theory here
Why are Americans governed by the rich? Millionaires make up only three percent of the public but control all three branches of the federal government. How did this happen? What stops lower-income and working-class Americans from becoming politicians? The first book to answer these urgent questions, The Cash Ceiling provides a compelling and comprehensive account of why so few working-class people hold office—and what reformers can do about it.
Many continue to believe that the United States is a nation of political moderates. In fact, it is a nation divided. It has been so for some time and has grown more so. This book provides a new and historically grounded perspective on the polarization of America, systematically documenting how and why it happened.
A little-known classic in the spirit of Machiavelli’s Prince, How to Win an Election is required reading for politicians and everyone who enjoys watching them try to manipulate their way into office.
This provocative book reveals how the majority of modern liberal democracies have become increasingly oligarchic, suffering from a form of structural political decay first conceptualized by ancient philosophers. Systemic Corruption argues that the problem cannot be blamed on the actions of corrupt politicians but is built into the very fabric of our representative systems.
To the ancient Greeks, democracy meant gathering in public and debating laws set by a randomly selected assembly of several hundred citizens. To the Icelandic Vikings, democracy meant meeting every summer in a field to discuss issues until consensus was reached. Our contemporary representative democracies are very different. Modern parliaments are gated and guarded, and it seems as if only certain people—with the right suit, accent, wealth, and connections—are welcome. Diagnosing what is wrong with representative government and aiming to recover some of the lost openness of ancient democracies, Open Democracy presents a new paradigm of democracy in which power is genuinely accessible to ordinary citizens.
Black Americans are by far the most unified racial group in American electoral politics, with 80 to 90 percent identifying as Democrats—a surprising figure given that nearly a third now also identify as ideologically conservative, up from less than 10 percent in the 1970s. Why has ideological change failed to push more black Americans into the Republican Party? Steadfast Democrats answers this question with a pathbreaking new theory.
The “silent majority”—a phrase coined by Richard Nixon in 1969 in response to Vietnam War protests and later used by Donald Trump as a campaign slogan—refers to the supposed wedge that exists between protestors in the street and the voters at home. The Loud Minority upends this view by demonstrating that voters are in fact directly informed and influenced by protest activism.
President Obama identified inequality as “the defining challenge of our time.” Unequal Democracy is the definitive account of how and why our political system has failed to rise to that challenge. Now more than ever, this is a book every American needs to read.
Do doctors really know what they are talking about when they tell us vaccines are safe? Should we take climate experts at their word when they warn us about the perils of global warming? Why should we trust science when our own politicians don’t? In this landmark book, Naomi Oreskes offers a bold and compelling defense of science, revealing why the social character of scientific knowledge is its greatest strength—and the greatest reason we can trust it.
Hate in the Homeland is essential for understanding the tactics and underlying ideas of modern far-right extremism. This eye-opening book takes readers into the mainstream places and spaces where today’s far right is engaging and ensnaring young people, and reveals innovative strategies we can use to combat extremist radicalization.