Political theory

  • Authoritarianism Isn't Just About Personality Cults

    Recent books on "strongmen" reduce the problem of authoritarianism to the phenomenon of charismatic leadership and ignore many of the structural factors contributing to democratic collapse. 

  • Gramsci's Gift

    by Alan Wald

    As the political thought of the Italian marxist is increasingly used and misused in popular discourse, including in right-wing attacks on "cultural Marxism," has the time come for this generation's biography of Antonio Gramsci? 

  • The Thrill of Teaching Mill

    by Samuel Goldman

    Mill was prescient in focusing attention not only on the restriction of speech by the state, but on the cultural and social obstacles to dissenting opinion.

  • Now is the Time to Revisit Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism

    by Anne Applebaum

    The political and economic supports for stability and prosperity in the developed world are more precarious than ever; the revival of authoritarianism that Arendt predicted may be at hand, making her work more vital than ever. 

  • The Deep Structure of Political Crisis

    by Ruth Berins Collier and Jake Grumbach

    The economic model of post-industrial America has produced the kinds of organization and disorganization, and mobilization and demobilization, that have led to profoundly antidemocratic politics. 

  • How Willmoore Kendall Invented Trumpism

    by Jacob Heilbrunn

    Christopher Owens's biography places Willmoore Kendall in the first rank of postwar conservative intellectuals and identifies him with the fusion of populism and traditionalism associated with the Trumpist right and the burgeoning "national conservative" movements.

  • Review: Digging For Utopia

    by Kwame Anthony Appiah

    "There was a stepwise connection, we think, between sowing cereals in our primeval past and waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles." Do David Graeber and David Wengrow effectively demolish this assumption in a new book with implications for how we understand freedom and civilization? 

  • Beyond the State: An Anarchist History of Humanity

    by Daniel Immerwahr

    The late radical anthropologist David Graeber, with his posthumous collaborator David Wengrow, looks to the long sweep of history to assess the prospect of human self-governance without a powerful state. 

  • Histories of Violence: When Freedom Turns Ugly

    American Studies scholar Elizabeth Anker's work examines "ugly freedom," in which the capacity of one group to dominate another is constructed as the positive social value of liberty. She discusses it with philosopher Brad Evans.

  • Review Essay: Freedom for Whom?

    by Michael Mirer

    Two recent books, by Tyler Stovall and Annelien De Dijn, interrogate the history of the idea of freedom and the question of whether western liberal democracy can be freed from its historical roots in exclusion and domination of others. 

  • Liberty’s Discontents: The Contested History of Freedom

    Annelien de Dijn's book examines the tensions and contradictions inherent in the idea of freedom, arguing that the individualistic, liberty-focused ideal is a recent phenomenon and has obscured ideas of freedom rooted in democracy and collective security. 

  • Lessons From All Democracies

    by David Stasavage

    The idea of the "torch" of democracy passing from one historical society to the present blinds us to understanding how popular sovereignty arises and why it's resilient. If we are concerned with protecting democracy, we must first understand it.

  • Was Madison Mistaken?

    by Carl Pletsch

    The divisive Trump years have called the wisdom of the Framers into question, but the author contends that James Madison in particular anticipated how a republic would be challenged by partisanship and designed one that could withstand that challenge (he just never claimed it would be easy). 

  • The Broken System: What Comes After Meritocracy?

    by Elizabeth Anderson

    Philosopher Elizabeth Anderson reviews Michael Sandel's critique of meritocracy, a book that locates an explanation for the Trumpian moment in the rise of competitive individualism in the platforms of both major parties. 

  • Movie at the Ellipse: A Study in Fascist Propaganda

    by Jason Stanley

    Not enough attention has been paid to the video shown to spectators at Donald Trump's January 6th "Save America" rally. A close look shows it to be a work of propaganda firmly in the tradition of fascism. 

  • From Revolution to Reformism

    by Adam Przeworski

    A new book of political theory excerpted here locates the decline of the Left in its adoption of reformist rhetoric that accommodated capitalism's preferences for fiscal stability and austerity.

  • Why Black Marxism, Why Now?

    by Robin D.G. Kelley

    Robin D.G. Kelley places the work of Cedric Robinson in the context of Black radical traditions that have challenged the use of Marxism as a critique of power and politics.