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Democracy in Chains: Book summary and reviews of Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean

Democracy in Chains

The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

by Nancy MacLean

Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean X
Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean
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Book Summary

An explosive exposé of the right's relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, and change the Constitution.

Behind today's headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect - the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan - and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite's power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.

Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were only too eager to support Buchanan's work in teaching others how to divide America into "makers" and "takers." And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission to rewrite the social contract of the modern world, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan's strategy.

Without Buchanan's ideas and Koch's money, the libertarian right would not have succeeded in its stealth takeover of the Republican Party as a delivery mechanism. Now, with Mike Pence as Vice President, the cause has a longtime loyalist in the White House, not to mention a phalanx of Republicans in the House, the Senate, a majority of state governments, and the courts, all carrying out the plan. That plan includes harsher laws to undermine unions, privatizing everything from schools to health care and Social Security, and keeping as many of us as possible from voting. Based on ten years of unique research, Democracy in Chains tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok. This revelatory work of scholarship is also a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. {McLean] has delivered another deeply important book that will interest general readers and scholars alike. Her work here is a feat of American intellectual and political history." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government." - Booklist

An unsettling exposé of the depth and breadth of the libertarian agenda." - Kirkus

"Professor MacLean's meticulous research and shrewd insights make this a must-read for all who believe in government 'by the people.'" - Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

"This book is mesmerizing. Rarely have I encountered a work that speaks to such significant issues, with evidence rooted in conclusive new sources ... Everyone who wants to understand today's confrontational politics should read this important book, now." - Alice Kessler-Harris, author of In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in Twentieth Century America

"[Democracy in Chains ] is essential reading in order to understand the ideas that billionaires use to justify their control of our political institutions. I can't imagine a more timely or urgent book." - Greg Grandin, author of Fordlandia (finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) and The Empire of Necessity < (winner of the Bancroft Prize)

The information about Democracy in Chains shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Nancy MacLean

Nancy MacLean is the award-winning author of Behind the Mask of Chivalry (a New York Times "noteworthy" book of the year) and Freedom is Not Enough, which was called by the Chicago Tribune "contemporary history at its best." The William Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, she lives in Durham, North Carolina.

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