The Parenti text challenges students, perhaps for the first time, to critically assess the dominant pluralist paradigm; that it invites students to consider the ubiquity of politics in their lives; that they confront the struggle and inevitable conflict between democracy and capitalism, which is usually ignored.” —Christopher A. Leu, California State University, Northridge
“Years after they read it, some students have remarked that it was the most important book they’ve read in college.” —Michelle Brophy-Baermann, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Pt.
“Parenti is more readable than Noam Chomsky, and more serious than Michael Moore.” —Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University
The study of politics is itself a political act, containing little that is neutral. True, we can all agree on certain neutral facts about the structure of government and the like. However, the book that does not venture much beyond these minimal descriptions will offend few readers but also will interest few. Any determined pursuit of how and why things happen draws us into highly controversial areas. Most textbooks pretend to a neutrality they do not really possess. While claiming to be objective, they are merely conventional. They depict the status quo in implicitly accepting terms, propagating fairly orthodox notions about American politics.
For decades, mainstream political scientists and other apologists for the existing social order have tried to transform practically every deficiency in our political system into a strength. They would have us believe that the millions who are nonvoters are content with present social conditions, that high-powered lobbyists are nothing to worry about because they perform an information function vital to representative government, and that the growing concentration of executive power is a good thing because the president is democratically responsive to broad national interests. The apologists have argued that the exclusion of third parties is really for the best because too many parties (that is, more than two) would fractionalize and destabilize our political system, and besides, the major parties eventually incorporate into their platforms the positions raised by minor parties (which is news to a number of socialist parties whose views have remained unincorporated for more than a century).
Reacting to the mainstream tendency to turn every vice into a virtue, left critics of the status quo have felt compelled to turn every virtue into a vice. Thus they have argued that electoral struggle is meaningless, that our civil liberties are a charade, that federal programs for the needy are next to worthless, that reforms are mostly sops to the oppressed, and labor unions are all complacent, corrupt, and conservative. The left critics have been a much needed antidote to the happy pluralists who painted a silver lining around every murky cloud. But they were wrong in seeing no victories, no “real” progress in the democratic struggles fought and won. Democracy for the Few tries to strike a balance; it tries to explain how democracy is incongruous with modern-day capitalism and is consistently violated by a capitalist social order, and yet how democracy refuses to die and continues to fight back and even make gains despite the great odds against popular forces.
Chapter 1: Partisan Politics
Beyond TextbooksChapter 2: Wealth and Want in the United States
The Politico-economic System
Capital and LaborChapter 3: The Plutocratic Culture: Institutions and Ideologies
Capital Concentration: Who Owns America?
Downsizing and Downgrading
Market Demand and Productivity
The Hardships of Working America
The Human Costs of Economic Injustice
Corporate Plutocracy and Ideological OrthodoxyChapter 4: A Constitution for the Few
Left, Right, and Center
Public Opinion: Which Direction?
Democracy: Form and Content
Class Power in Early AmericaChapter 5: Rise of the Corporate State
Containing the Spread of Democracy
Fragmenting Majority Power
Plotters or Patriots?
War against Labor, Favors for BusinessChapter 6: Politics: Who Gets What?
Pliable Progressives and Red Scares
The New Deal: Hard Times and Tough Reforms
Welfare for the RichChapter 7: Military Empire and Global Domination
Federal Bailouts, State and Local Handouts
Taxes: Helping the Rich in Their Time of Greed
Unkind Cuts, Unfair Rates
Deficit Spending and the National Debt
Some Hidden Deficits
A Global Kill CapacityChapter 8: Health and Human Services: Sacrificial Lambs
Pentagon Profits, Waste and Theft
Harming Our Own
The Poor Get Less (and Less)Chapter 9: The Last Environment
Social Insecurity: Privatizing Everything
How Much Health Can You Afford?
Creating Crises: Schools and Housing
Toxifying the EarthChapter 10: Unequal before the Law
Pollution for Profits
Government of the Despoilers
An Alternative Approach
Chapter 11: Political Repression and National Insecurity
Crime in the Suites
Class Law: Tough on the Weak
The Crime of Prisons
A Most Fallible System
The Victimization of Children
Racist Law Enforcement
Chapter 12: Who Governs? Elites, Labor, and Globalization
The Repression of Dissent
Political Prisoners, USA
Political Murder, USA
The National Security Autocracy
CIA: Capitalism's International Army or Cocaine Import Agency?
Watergate and Iran-Contra
Chapter 13: Mass Media: For the Many, by the Few
The Ruling Class
Unions and the Good Fight
How Globalization Undermines Democracy
He Who Pays the PiperChapter 14: Voters, Parties, and Stolen Elections
The Ideological Monopoly
Room for Alternatives?
Democrats and Republicans: Any Differences?Chapter 15: Congress: The Pocketing of Power
The Two-Party Monopoly
Making Every Vote Count
Rigging the Game
Money, A Necessary Condition
The Struggle to Vote
Stolen Elections, Lost Democracy
A Congress for the MoneyChapter 16: The President: Guardian of the System
Lobbyists: The Other Lawmakers
The Varieties of Corruption
Special-Interests, Secrecy, and Manipulation
The Legislative Labyrinth
Legislative Democracy Under Siege
Salesman of the SystemChapter 17: The Political Economy of Bureaucracy
The Two Faces of the President
Feds vs. States
A Loaded Electoral College
The Rise of Executive Power
The Would-be King
The Class Power Context
Chapter 18: The Supremely Political Court
The Myth and Reality of Inefficiency
Deregulation and Privatization
Secrecy and Deception, Waste and Corruption
Nonenforcement: Politics in Command
Bureaucratic Action and Inaction
Serving the “Regulated”
Public Authority in Private Hands
Monopoly Regulation Versus Public-Service Regulation
Who Judges?Chapter 19: Democracy for the Few
Conservative Judicial Activism
Circumventing the First Amendment
Freedom for Revolutionaries (and Others)?
As the Court Turns
Influence of the Court
Pluralism for the Few
The Limits of Reform
Democracy as Class Struggle
The Roles of the State
What Is to Be Done?
The Reality of Public Production