Political theory

  • 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. 

  • Donald Trump’s Situational Fascism

    by Gavriel Rosenfeld

    Rather than engage in an unproductive debate about whether Donald Trump is or is not a bona fide fascist, scholars should consider the events of January 6 (and Trump's role in inciting them) as emergent, contingent results of the interplay of factors latent in American liberal democracy.

  • Why Trump Isn't a Fascist

    by Richard J. Evans

    Richard J. Evans argues that "fascism" arose in the specific context of states defeated in World War I and thus embraced military expansionism and a concurrent militarization of domestic life in addition to racial domination. While Trump is dangerous, labeling him a fascist doesn't explain his political movement. 

  • Ex-Friends: Anne Applebaum and the Crisis of Centrist Politics

    Critic David Klion considers the unexamined relationship between the late 20th Century rise of market-oriented liberalism and the 21st century rise of authoritarian nationalism (or, "why so many of her once-close friends have turned out to be fascists").

  • Just How Dangerous Was Donald Trump?

    Times columnist Michelle Goldberg checks on competing evaluations from scholars including Corey Robin, Roger Griffin and Robert O. Paxton – did Trump's lack of command of the machinery of government make him a play-acting authoritarian, or was his rhetoric of national regeneration through his personal leadership exemplary of fascist movements? 

  • Why Getting the Most Votes Matters

    Times Editor Jesse Wegman examines the unique absence of majoritarian principle in the election of the American president and argues it goes against the most basic understanding of political fairness.