Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism” as Want to Read:
Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  426 Ratings  ·  46 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 c ...more
Hardcover, 356 pages
Published April 27th 2008 by Princeton University Press (first published April 7th 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Democracy Incorporated, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Democracy Incorporated

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,094)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Oct 03, 2014 notgettingenough is currently reading it
Shelves: haven-t-read-but
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
John David
Jan 18, 2012 John David rated it it was amazing
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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Nov 04, 2015 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as i-want-money
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
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
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
Jeff Brailey
Aug 25, 2008 Jeff Brailey rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 13, 2016 Domhnall rated it it was amazing
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
May 02, 2015 Cat rated it it was ok
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
Todd Thompson
May 02, 2016 Todd Thompson rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 24, 2015 Devogenes rated it really liked it
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
Paul O'Leary
Jan 05, 2016 Paul O'Leary rated it liked it
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
Michael Mcadoo
May 05, 2016 Michael Mcadoo rated it did not like it
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
Jul 21, 2012 Green rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 22, 2012 Asiasuperloop rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Robert Jerome
May 15, 2016 Robert Jerome rated it it was amazing
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.
C. Scott
Apr 26, 2013 C. Scott rated it it was ok
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
May 10, 2015 Jim rated it it was ok
while wolin's primary thesis is reasonable, interesting and important...his book length defense of it is frustrating in its lack of organization, the marked variability in the evidence marshaled for his defense (from the rigorous to the non-existent) to his consistently negative attitude towards the bush administration which (even when justifiable) serves as a distraction.
Mar 18, 2014 Charles rated it liked it
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.
Mar 16, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing
Excellent, extremely thorough coverage of our problem here, with lucid contrast to 'classical' totalitarianism as Wolin defines it. A must read for anyone who is genuinely interested in a robust analysis of the American system of government and how it really works. Top 12.
Kathy Woods
Oct 08, 2015 Kathy Woods rated it it was amazing
This is an interesting but pretty dense academic treatment of the progression of capitalism society, particularly the mechanisms of control and propaganda. It mad me think, but also left me with some questions.
Isobel Blackthorn
Feb 01, 2015 Isobel Blackthorn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-affairs
A book of seminal importance. Chilling and essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the power elite and how it functions in America.
Earl Killian
Sep 16, 2014 Earl Killian rated it it was ok
Democracy Inc is a book-length Opinion piece, such as you would find on the OpEd pages. Since I find the OpEd pages to be without merit, I didn't like this book, even though I agreed with most of his opinions and even found them eloquently made in many cases. What is the purpose of reading something this length if it has so little data (like an OpEd)?
Ecoute Sauvage
Jul 24, 2013 Ecoute Sauvage rated it it was ok
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 "
Neil Moore
Jan 07, 2012 Neil Moore rated it it was amazing
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.
Brendan  McAuliffe
I could have written this ( except for the off-kilter chapter nine ) < which should be removed or conpletely reconstructed > A lot of typographical / punctuationaly errors ( using voice dication software ? ) Overall however, ' inverted totalitarianism ' is what I was calling ' Fascism lite ' , ' Nerf Fascism ', or ' I Can't Beleive It's Not Fascism ! '.
Mar 01, 2012 James rated it it was amazing
This is my summary of the book.

Ancient writers said that a democratic polis is prone to corruption and tyranny.

Modern democracy (Germany) proved this with all the force of an industrial economy in WWII.

Post-modern democracy does some very interesting things when it turns into a tyranny.

There are, of course, other ways to read it.
Russell Ricciardi
A compelling framework for understanding how our particular modern American form of "democracy" is really no democracy at all. Not an easy read, but well worth it, for those seriously interested in this contemporary problem. I read it sometime in 2012. The best single contemporary book of political criticism that I have read.
Apr 08, 2016 Tom rated it liked it
Interesting premise, but the execution is marred by a tendentious, awkward and unpolished prose style. I enjoyed the book at first, but enjoyment diminished while progressing, and I gave up about three-quarters of the way through. Note that the "new edition" contains no updated material apart from a rather unconvincing preface.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 69 70 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Death of the Liberal Class
  • Democracy for the Few
  • The Treason of the Intellectuals
  • When Corporations Rule the World
  • Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age
  • Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies
  • Breaking the Sound Barrier
  • The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War
  • With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful
  • Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II
  • Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West
  • The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street
  • Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism
  • Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights

Share This Book

“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.” 3 likes
“by the fact of his own election, that audacity does not appear to challenge the system of power which has brought the nation an endless war, bankruptcy, recession, and high unemployment. Change aplenty and all feeding the drift toward the system described in the pages that follow. July 2009 Preface As a preliminary I want to emphasize certain aspects of the approach taken in this volume in order to avoid possible misunderstandings. Although the concept of totalitarianism is central to what follows, my thesis is not that the current American political system is an inspired replica of Nazi Germany’s or George W. Bush of Hitler.1 References to Hitler’s Germany are introduced to remind the reader of the benchmarks in a system of power that was invasive abroad, justified preemptive war as a matter of official doctrine, and repressed all opposition at home—a system that was cruel and racist in principle and practice, deeply ideological, and openly bent on world domination. Those benchmarks are introduced to illuminate tendencies” 0 likes
More quotes…