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America at Risk

Threats to Liberal Self-Government in an Age of Uncertainty

Robert Faulkner and Susan Shell, Editors

Publication Year: 2009

America at Risk gathers original essays by a distinguished and bipartisan group of writers and intellectuals to address a question that matters to Americans of every political persuasion: what are some of the greatest dangers facing America today? The answers, which range from dwindling political participation to rising poverty, and religion to empire, add up to a valuable and timely portrait of a particular moment in the history of American ideas. While the opinions are many, there is a central theme in the book: the corrosion of the liberal constitutional order that has long guided the country at home and abroad. The authors write about the demonstrably important dangers the United States faces while also breaking the usual academic boundaries: there are chapters on the family, religious polarization, immigration, and the economy, as well as on governmental and partisan issues. America at Risk is required reading for all Americans alarmed about the future of their country. Contributors • Traci Burch • James W. Ceaser • Robert Faulkner • Niall Ferguson • William A. Galston • Hugh Heclo • Pierre Manent • Harvey C. Mansfield • Peter Rodriguez • Kay Lehman Schlozman • Susan Shell • Peter Skerry • James Q. Wilson • Alan Wolfe Robert Faulkner is Professor of Political Science at Boston College. Susan Shell is Professor of Political Science at Boston College. "America at Risk goes well beyond the usual diagnoses of issues debated in public life like immigration, war, and debt, to consider the Republic’s founding principles, and the ways in which they have been displaced by newer thoughts and habits in contemporary America. A critical book for understanding our present condition." —Francis Fukuyama, Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies "In this penetrating book, the nation’s finest social and political thinkers from across the spectrum take a careful and no-holds-barred look at the dangers facing the American political system. The conclusions are more unsettling than reassuring---but that is because they are honest and real." —Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute "In the midst of overwrought pundits, irate soccer moms, and outraged bloggers, it is difficult to distinguish genuine dangers from false alarms and special pleading. This book enables us to do so, in a way that helps us to actually think about, not just feel anxious about, threats to those features of American society that are worth cherishing. The authors range in ideology and expertise, but they are uniformly judicious, incisive, and informative. This is a fascinating book about issues that the political system usually ignores or exaggerates." —Jennifer L. Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Contemporary Political and Social Issues


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-12

The purpose of this book can be simply stated: to set forth and examine the most important dangers confronting America today. With that aim the editors sought out political analysts whom we had reason to think first-rate. Then we encouraged each to select a problem that he or she thought particularly serious. The result is this volume of essays...

Part One: Wages of Empire

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The Transatlantic Predicament

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pp. 15-28

The current lull in the transatlantic shouting match is a good time to survey the situation on the Western front, although relief at our renewed comity risks blinding us to the huge continental drift that has already taken place. The dispute about Iraq brought to light a profound divergence about the world, and what we are supposed to do in the world, between Europeans and Americans, which the provisional convergence...

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American Democracy: The Perils of Imperialism?

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pp. 29-54

Is the United States an empire? For roughly a hundred years, radical critics of American foreign policy have regarded this question as otiose, a little like the question “Is the pope a Catholic?” In September 2006 the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez brandished a copy of Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States...

Part Two: Creeds and Parties

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Defending Liberty: Liberal Democracy and the Limits of Public Power

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pp. 57-74

The defense of liberty is the distinctive aim of liberal democracy. By monopolizing force and respecting the rule of law, even autocracies can protect individuals’ lives and security. In modern circumstances, however, only liberal democracies have given sustained and effective attention to the preservation of liberty. They do so in two different ways...

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A Clear and Present Danger: The Doctrine of Political Nonfoundationalism

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pp. 75-95

The greatest threat to America today comes from a theoretical doctrine that has been offered in all sincerity as the friend, even the savior, of liberal democracy. For want of a universally accepted name, this doctrine will be designated here by the label of political nonfoundationalism. Political nonfoundationalism holds that liberal democracy is best maintained by renouncing public reliance on a first principle...

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The Dangers of Conservative Populism

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pp. 96-114

Conservatism is at its best when liberalism is at its worst. Fortunately for American conservatives, liberals chose to be at their worst for a considerable portion of the post–World War II period. After uniting most of the country around a national security consensus in the early years of the Cold War, and then carrying forward an ambitious sense of national purpose, including a bipartisan commitment...

Part Three: A Divided People?

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The Future of the Liberal Family

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pp. 117-139

Recent evidence of a “baby bust” across most advanced liberal societies raises warning signs of a potential crisis. A new “specter” is haunting Europe (and not it alone): a precipitous decline in birthrates. Even as liberal societies succeed beyond all previous economic measure, many of them, it seems, are failing to sustain themselves at the most basic level: maintenance of a constant, liberally acculturated population...

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Political Voice in an Age of Inequality /

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pp. 140-173

Since the colonists chafed under the rule of the British king, a commitment to equality has formed a thread in American political discourse.1 But perhaps uniquely among values on which democracies rest, equality is a vexed concept. The men who met at Philadelphia to write the Constitution that continues to govern us were not equally committed to equality. With Shays’s Rebellion and the threat of civil disorder in the background...

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The Real Immigration Crisis

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pp. 174-192

A couple of years ago I attended a conference in Toronto, where a colleague presented his research on the challenges of border control in Europe. He prefaced his remarks with the observation that Western democracies would be able to deal with mass migration only when they faced up to its inevitability. Fair enough. The next day, after the conference ended...

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Religion and Polarization

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pp. 193-214

Today America is divided over religion to a degree we have not seen since the anti-Catholic efforts of the Know-Nothing Party in the nineteenth century and the Ku Klux Klan in the twentieth. And in those earlier conflicts, the struggle was at least between two religious traditions, Protestantism and Catholicism. Now the struggle is between people of any faith (Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish)...

Part Four: Dilemmas of Self-Government

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The End of Savings

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pp. 217-237

In late 1999, as the world prepared to welcome the new millennium, many were looking back at the twentieth century and wondering which of its many creations would endure. From the heart of Manhattan, Broadway looked back on myriad triumphs and failures and in this last year of the century had real cause to celebrate. The year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Arthur Miller’s classic tale of the American Dream...

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Rational Control, or Life without Virtue

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pp. 238-248

In what follows I shall make a very small beginning to describe a danger that appears, at first blush, to be an irritation at worst and at best, an actual benefit. It arises from what appears, again at first blush, to be a benign intent to improve the lot of not just one individual or another, or this society or that, but of everyone and all humanity. It employs the noblest faculty of man in tandem with the lowest...

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The Corruption of Democratic Leadership

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pp. 249-266

A great danger is something that is more than merely important or attention-grabbing. Such a danger reaches into the deep structure of things. In fact the peril may be so deep and slow-moving that, focusing as we do on what is momentarily noticeable, it might scarcely seem noteworthy. As with diseases in our physical bodies, so with the body politic—the gravest threats are likely to have a sinister hiddenness...


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pp. 267-270


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pp. 271-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780472022533
E-ISBN-10: 0472022539
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472116683
Print-ISBN-10: 0472116681

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 4 Tables; 5 Figures
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Contemporary Political and Social Issues
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 646839476
MUSE Marc Record: Download for America at Risk

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Subject Headings

  • Liberalism -- United States.
  • Democracy -- United States.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 2001-2009.
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