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Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  521 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Democracy is struggling in America--by now this statement is almost cliche. But what if the country is no longer a democracy at all? In Democracy Incorporated, Sheldon Wolin considers the unthinkable: has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation che ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2006)
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This thread is continued here:

7 March 2014. People are campaigning against Amazon for the many ruinous ways they affect our community.

Updated 18 August 2013 I don't know why this is hard to understand, but when you are buying from Amazon, you are making a statement that you think people should exist like this:

instead of like this:

Not on
Maru Kun
Apr 10, 2017 Maru Kun marked it as bubbling-under  ·  review of another edition
This now viral news story on an overbooked passenger (allegedly a doctor) being violently removed from his seat and dragged down the aisle of the plane by the Chicago Police in order to make room for UA employees and save a few hundred dollars in compensation makes me think that it's time to get a copy of this book. Also on CNN
John David
Sheldon Wolin begins his book by looking at the effects that September 11, 2001 had on the public, and especially how those effects were refracted though the media. He suggests that the reaction was practically singular and unanimous: popular opinion was consolidated through media apparatus, dissident voices were marginalized or silenced, and fear of a distant, unknown enemy (the ubiquitous “Islamic terrorist”) was encouraged. After 9/11, the miasma of terror created the perfect foil for the con ...more
Apr 07, 2013 Tobias rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book, but in all honesty it was a slog to the very end. It was incredibly repetitive, laden with footnotes to newspaper articles and glib references — it would have been much better as a long magazine article (which it may well have been originally). I also think Wolin was too focused on coining phrases than on providing coherent analysis. That said, I agree with his fundamental thesis: American democracy is increasingly "managed democracy." Citizens are encouraged t ...more
This is a continuation of stuff about Amazon. The rest is here:

Ursula Le Guin in the NYT today 29 September 2014

“We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, ‘disappearing’ an author,” Ms. Le Guin wrote in an email. “Governments use censorship for moral and political ends, justifiable or not. Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors
Gordon Hilgers
Jul 03, 2013 Gordon Hilgers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of course, there are plenty of books on the best seller lists that track and analyze American politics from the standpoint of current events, but far fewer that really dig deep into how the paradigms surrounding democracy in America are changing us and how we relate to government itself. Sheldon S. Wolin's "Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism" is not only an important book but something those who definitely feel the tremblings and perceive distor ...more
Do not go into this book expecting it to be an accessible analysis of modern US political systems. It is not. It is a university-level text full of jargon and with the expectation of prior knowledge on the part of readers. I also found it to be very repetitive and written in a dull style. While I agree with most if not all Wolin's points about the nature of modern US "democracy", I also do not think this book is the best resource for that discussion. Further, despite the regular references to Na ...more
Jeff Brailey
Aug 25, 2008 Jeff Brailey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite the fact the theory set forth by the author describes what I have believed for some time has happened to my country, the journey he takes the reader on to defend his premise is very disconcerting indeed. From the beginning of the book, he compares The Triumph of Will, a pro-Nazi propaganda film of the 1930s with the May 1, 2003 performance by President Bush on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln beneath the backdrop of a huge banner reading "Mission Accomplished."

The author is careful n
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Nov 04, 2015 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as i-want-money  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: left

"Sheldon Wolin and Inverted Totalitarianism"
By Chris Hedges

Wendy Brown, a political science professor at UC Berkeley and another former student of Wolin’s, said in an email to me: “Resisting the monopolies on left theory by Marxism and on democratic theory by liberalism, Wolin developed a distinctive—even distinctively American—analysis of the political present and of radical democratic possibilities. He was especially prescient in theorizing the heavy
Paul O'Leary
Do you believe Goldman Sachs is running the country? If so, this book may be for you. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism epitomizes the type of political, mainstream books that appeared in 2008: anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-capitalism etc; except the author, Sheldon Wolin, penetrated deeper into the morass of the times and explained why US politics was impoverished. If one looked at the surface of things one might think there was a lot wrong that n ...more
Jason Von meding
"Inverted totalitarianism" and "managed democracy". A brilliant read.
He should have taken it one step further and admit we already live in a totalitarian society. But excellently researched and who can blame him for balking at the admittance, because he would probably be ridiculed in the academic ranks.
Sheldon Wolin argues that America has sacrificed democracy for a managed state, dominated by the wealthy, by corporations and by a corrupt and reckless political elite. He describes this as, in effect, a form of totalitarianism and discusses the differences between the American model and that of Nazi Germany. In doing so he fails to give a reasonable history of totalitarianism itself - which arguably has its origins in WWI Britain and America, and in the public relations industry born out of tha ...more
Noel Aldebol
Dec 26, 2016 Noel Aldebol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I did not major in political science, and yet after having read this book deliberately, reading the footnotes, and looking up the references therein I feel like Sheldon Wolin has provided an educations worth a few semesters.

He makes an excellent presentation of the transformations we have undergone and the silent nature ( in public discourse ) of the executions.

Sheldon is a master at using the best words to express his ideas. I had to look up a lot of words, and thankfully I had my Kindle versio
A great overview of how capitalism and republicanism, even though modern republicanism and capitalism arose separately, intertwined in America to give us a corporatized republican government. This is about far more than something like "regulatory capture"; rather, its about how governing elites, primarily Republican but including ever-more Democrats, are fine with corporations calling the tune on what constitutes "desirable" levels of citizen participation in the modern republic. And, it's more ...more
Jul 21, 2012 Green rated it it was amazing
This review is from: Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (New in Paper) (Kindle Edition)
I've written a short review of Robert Harris' novel The Fear Index Professor Wolin's "Democracy Incorporated" is, in my view, the Non-Fiction version of "Fear Index". Admittedly, Wolin is drier and less entertaining than Harris. So patience and a few more glasses of wine may be necessary to make one's way through.

Professor Wolin's theory of Inverted Totalitari
Jul 21, 2012 Asiasuperloop rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 21st-century
This review is from: Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (New in Paper) (Kindle Edition)
I've written a short review of Robert Harris' novel The Fear Index Professor Wolin's "Democracy Incorporated" is, in my view, the Non-Fiction version of "Fear Index". Admittedly, Wolin is drier and less entertaining than Harris. So patience and a few more glasses of wine may be necessary to make one's way through.

Professor Wolin's theory of Inverted Totalitari
Brian Morris
Mar 13, 2017 Brian Morris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is definitely the best book I've read about how our political system and "democracy" actually work in practice in America. Very eye-opening and very sobering. Even though the book is almost a decade old, it's still relevant to the world of 2017. The events of the last decade only serve to strengthen the author's thesis.
Feb 17, 2015 Devogenes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty compelling analysis of the dynamics propelling the corporate takeover of America's political institutions. Wolin doesn't shy away from drawing the rather alarming comparisons between the totalizing influence of economic power and wealth concentration in the contemporary politics of Superpower with the rise of 20th century totalitarian regimes.

The notion of contemporary totalitarianism being 'inverted' is an interesting one. Some of the characteristics are particularly interesting and pose
Kristian Köhntopp
Dies ist ein sehr sperriges Buch, das sich zwar Zeit in seinen Erklärungen nimmt, sich aber andererseits wenig Mühe gibt, seinen Punkt in allgemein verständlicher Sprache zu machen. Wolin erklärt, was er mit dem Begriff "Inverted Totalitarism" meint und beschreibt dann die emergenten Mechanismen, die nach 9/11 dazu geführt haben, wie aus American Superpower eine Corporate Superpower wurde, und wie diese sich mit dem Muster des Totalitarismus anders als dieser an die Macht geschlichen hat und wie ...more
Sheldon S. Wolin (R.I.P. 2015) puts forward the notion of inverted totalitarianism, which differs drastically in the methods used by what is classically understood as totalitarianism, both of which, ultimately, have eerily similar outcomes.

While standard totalitarianism prides itself on trying to unify the people ideologically, and make them active in supporting the ideology of the ruling class, thus creating a totality in society; inverted totalitarianism emphasizes division, individual isolati
Todd Thompson
May 01, 2016 Todd Thompson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Political theory can be a difficult reading experience for the non-professional scholar, such as myself, and this one was a slow read for me. Still, it is the best explanation I've read about the decline of popular democracy in the United States and the rise of corporate-political power. Wolin's arguments are exhaustive as are his specific illustrations of how citizens have been duped by the pretense of a participatory democracy. He shows what many people already believe, that we are basically " ...more
C. Scott
Apr 12, 2013 C. Scott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An idea as provocative as this should never be so dull... This reader thinks it was a big mistake for the author to ever apologize for his theories. It felt like a significant portion of the early going was preparing the reader for upcoming comparisons to totalitarianism. Newsflash, if someone has picked up a book that suggests that the American system has devolved into some sort of totalitarian corporate state - they are probably willing to roll with such parallels.

Unfortunately, after reading
Albert Marten
Dec 08, 2016 Albert Marten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written at the end of Bush II, Wolin's book is a frightening harbinger for the coming Trump years. It's like President Obama never happened. Open the book to nearly any page and the reader will find meat for consumption. Page 261, for example, "A rarely discussed but crucial need of a self-governing society is that the members and those they elect to office tell the truth." Later on the same page, "In the face of declining political involvement by ordinary citizens, democracy becomes dangerously ...more
Michael Mcadoo
Apr 21, 2016 Michael Mcadoo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When you repeatedly reference your own book, or when footnotes simply link to alternative wording of your same ceaselessly-repeated points, your agenda seems to depart from educational and morph into propaganda.

"Representative Republic bad...pure democratic rule good." There, a Reader's Digest condensed version of this book.

I had really hoped this book, through its misleading title, would expose actual trends and complicity in the corporate takeover of American politics and government. Yeah, n
Ecoute Sauvage
What worries me a bit is that this book continues an old story but the author has no suggestions how to deal with the problem.

Spending more on education is absurd - this is the only country where high school graduates can't read, write, or do arithmetic AND they cost the local school district an average of $20,000/year. In another book I came across an explanation for why the people most affected don't start a revolution: they have been tranquillized into obesity and can't be weaned from their "
Dec 27, 2016 Leigh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although this book was written during the Iraq war and the era of George Bush I, the author actually discusses the current political situation only slightly but concentrates more on a deeper historical look at democracy itself and how it's never been truly achieved. The "inverted totalitarianism" thesis comes from his criticism of American democracy in the last 30 years, and he contrasts his views with "classic totalitarianism" such as that of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. An excellent read (for ...more
This is one of those books where I wish Goodreads let us use half-stars, because I'd give it 3 1/2. I did like the book and it was filled with tons of information, stuff I never knew before. His footnotes were worthy of their own book. Having said that, it was a bit repetitive. I felt like the author was repeating the same point about inverted totalitarianism in different words. Still, it's an informative book and one that Americans would benefit by reading.
Robert Jerome
May 15, 2016 Robert Jerome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book seeks to define the American political system in the aftermath of 2008. It coins the phrase "inverted totalitarianism" and draws contrasts between our system and totalitarian regimes. I think this method of formatting the book is a little silly and dramatic, but it is still an interesting analysis. It is written on a pretty abstract level without citing too many facts and makes most sense if read in conjunction with more fact based books.
Neil Moore
Jul 13, 2011 Neil Moore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
A great summarization of the fundamental flaws of American Democracy. The author does an excellent job of illustrating that our current political moment is not simply the work of evil men in the present time, but is rather more the logical end of a system that was intended from the beginning to manage democratic action -- to keep it in check, combined with an unchecked glorification of corporate capitalism in all its forms. A truly insightful and troubling analysis.
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“Antidemocracy, executive predominance, and elite rule are basic elements of inverted totalitarianism. Antidemocracy does not take the form of overt attacks upon the idea of government by the people. Instead, politically it means encouraging what I have earlier dubbed “civic demobilization,” conditioning an electorate to being aroused for a brief spell, controlling its attention span, and then encouraging distraction or apathy. The intense pace of work and the extended working day, combined with job insecurity, is a formula for political demobilization, for privatizing the citizenry. It works indirectly. Citizens are encouraged to distrust their government and politicians; to concentrate upon their own interests; to begrudge their taxes; and to exchange active involvement for symbolic gratifications of patriotism, collective self-righteousness, and military prowess. Above all, depoliticization is promoted through society’s being enveloped in an atmosphere of collective fear and of individual powerlessness: fear of terrorists, loss of jobs, the uncertainties of pension plans, soaring health costs, and rising educational expenses.” 7 likes
“Almost every product promises to change your life: it will make you more beautiful, cleaner, more sexually alluring, and more successful. Born again, as it were. The messages contain promises about the future, unfailingly optimistic, exaggerating, miracle-promising—the same ideology that invites corporate executives to exaggerate profits and conceal losses, but always with a sunny face. The virtual reality of the advertiser and the “good news” of the evangelist complement each other, a match made in heaven.” 1 likes
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