The poverty of American politics : a theoretical interpretation /
H. Mark Roelofs.
2nd ed.
Philadelphia, Pa. : Temple University Press, 1998.
xxiv, 310 p. : ill.
1566396069 (pb : alk. paper)
More Details
Philadelphia, Pa. : Temple University Press, 1998.
1566396069 (pb : alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 275-303) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1992-10:
Roelofs (New York University) offers a sweeping yet novel and trenchant diagnosis of what he takes to be the inadequacies of American politics. Throughout his analysis, the author theorizes that the American political system is "impoverished" because it bifurcates "myth" and "ideology." As he conceives it, the central problem is that the polity, though it is legitimated by a humane and egalitarian "Protestant" morality, operates according to the acquisitive and competitive principles of "Bourgeois" individualism. After elucidating the "Protestant" and "Bourgeois" sides of the "American political mind," Roelofs shows how these two elements impact the understanding and operation of American political institutions. In the concluding chapters the author evaluates the performance of the American political system in light of these two dominant "perspectives." He also examines the polity from a "Rational-Professional" standpoint that has been overshadowed by the "Protestant/Bourgeois Complex." This lucid and evocative work will be indispensable for anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of US political institutions. Highly recommended for all libraries. G. L. Malecha; Weber State University
Main Description
In this forceful and original work in American political philosophy, H. Mark Roelofs challenges America's complacency about its politics. He maintains that the theoretical design of the American political system is inherently flawed. He sees the system as essentially split between its social democratic, egalitarian, legitimizing self-image and its liberal democratic, elitist, operational practice. Neither of these aspects of the system is politically productive beyond its immediate functions. Roelofs's devastating and closely reasoned critique traces our nation's political ills to fundamental flaws in the very design of its founding principles, the character of its major institutions, and the basic patterns of its processes. Roelofs traces the contradictions in our political culture to American adaptations of a profoundly religious, mostly Protestant individualism and a secular Bourgeois individualism rooted in Hobbes and Locke. The clashes between these perspectives in the political system's institutional processes brew, according to the author, "generous portions of bombast and hypocrisy, inefficiency and corruption, and all too often, violence in one form or another". He demonstrates why, with our present political structure, there is no possibility of achieving our goals. The system's ultimate poverty, he argues, is its congenital inability to comprehend, let alone reform, itself. No other book has viewed the ills of American politics so comprehensively or traced their sources so insistently to the system's theoretical design, to the character of its founding principles, and to the nature of its major institutions. With the Bicentennial of the Constitution as well as the recentcollapse of Eastern European communism, many Americans are proudly proclaiming that their system of government works, despite its obvious contradictions, chaos, and corruption. Roelofs lucidly but pessimistically contends that, unless the system is fundamentally and completely reformed, it will continue to breed hypocrisy and inefficiency, violence and military adventurism, and a systematically impoverished democratic politics.
Unpaid Annotation
Maintaining that the American political system is not working well enough to inspire confidence that it can meet the challenges of our time, H. Mark Roelofs attributes that failure, not to its practitioners, but to its very design. He sees the system as split between its legitimizing self-image, social democracy, and its operational element, liberal democracy.Based on his novel understanding of the American political system, Roelofs presents a devastating and closely reasoned critique that traces our nation's political ills to fundamental flaws in the very design of its founding principles, the character of its major institutions, and the basic pattern of its processes. Dissecting our political and societal problems, he explains the limitations and basic contributions arising from the social democratic/liberal democratic dichotomoy that result in our current political poverty.While Roelofs's analysis remains the same as in the earlier edition, in this revised edition he has sharpened and extended the argument and expanded and updated his illustrative materials. Improved bibliographical citations and new diagrams make the book an even more useful teaching tool.
Table of Contents
Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
A Note on the Method: The View from "Within"
Introduction: The Great Paradoxesp. 1
Fundamentalsp. 9
Powerp. 11
The Protestant/Bourgeois Complexp. 24
Ambiguous Democracyp. 46
Ambivalent Governmentp. 66
Institutions and Officersp. 87
The Courts and the Constitutionp. 89
Presidential Greatnessp. 111
Legislative Supremacyp. 133
Grassroots Baronsp. 155
The Bureaucracyp. 174
A Note on Parties, Elections - and Interestsp. 190
The Poverty of American Politicsp. 195
The Bourgeois Perspectivep. 197
The Protestant Perspectivep. 218
The Rational-Professional Perspectivep. 239
Diagrams of the Argumentp. 259
Postscript to the First Editionp. 269
Postscript to the Second Editionp. 271
Notesp. 275
Indexp. 305
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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