Democracy for the Few

Parenti, Michael
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press, New York, USA
Year Published:  1995   First Published:  1988
Pages:  354pp   Price:  20.50   ISBN:  0-312-05233-2
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX6247

How does the U.S. political system work and for what purpose? What are the major forces shaping political life and how do they operate? Who governs in the United States? Who gets what, when, how, and why? Who pays and in what ways. These are the central questions investigated in this book.

Abstract:  Michael Parenti proposes in Democracy for the Few that the America is not a pluralistic democracy as it is idealized to be. Conversely, he believes it is a plutocracy where an unelected wealthy capitalist class controls both America's social and political institutions, which they use as tools to legitimize their rule and further their interests. Although democratic in name, Parenti believes the structure of capitalism prevents true democratic freedoms from being realized. He emphasizes that what makes a system democratic is not only its procedures, such as voting, but its outputs, such as an equal distribution of wealth.

Parenti offers a comprehensive and critical look at the entire capitalist American system. He makes frequent use of references and footnotes to support his arguments. Early chapters are devoted to the historical development of America's political system. From the birth of the American Constitution to the present day, Parenti describes how capitalist interests have trumped the interests of the working class. Later chapters are dedicated to modern American institutions such as Congress and the mass media. He illustrates how these institutions provide the illusion of the possibility of democratic change, while actually working to maintain the status quo.

Parenti does admit that there have been some democratic victories in America. However, he stresses they were hard-fought struggles that succeeded despite, and not because of, the current system. Nevertheless, he believes that there are limits to democratic reform because capitalism, by its very structure, is incompatible with democracy. In the end, Parenti suggests that socialism might be the answer. Although he concedes he does not know what kind of socialism is best or how to achieve it, he believes it is necessary to replace the capitalist system with a more democratic system.

[Abstracted by Jared Ong]

Table of Contents


1. Partisan Politics
Beyond Textbooks
The Politico-Economic System

2. Wealth and Want in the United States
Wealth and Class
Who Owns America?
The Dynamic of Capitalism
Productivity and Human Needs
The Hardships of Working America

3. The Plutocratic Culture: Institutions and Ideologies
American Plutocracy and Cultural Hegemony
Ideology: Right, Center, and Left
U.S. Public Opinion: Which Direction?
Democracy: Form and Substance

4. A Constitution for the Few
Class Power in Early America
Containing the Spread of Democracy
Plotters or Patriots?
Democratic Concessions

5. The Rise of the Corporate State
Serving Business: The Early Years
The Not-so-Progressive Era
The New Deal: Hard Times and Tough Reforms

6. Politics: Who Gets What?
Welfare for the Rich
Taxes: Helping the Rich in their Time of Greed
Deficit Spending and the National Debt
Military Spending: Buttering the Guns
Economic Imperialism

7. Health, Environment, ad Human Services: Sacrificial Lambs
The Poor Gets Less (and Less)
"Urban Removal" and "Mess Transit"
Health and Safety for Nobody
Ecological Disaster

8. Unequal before the Law
Criminal Law: A Double Standard
Victims of the Law
Nonenforcement: When the Law Fails Us

9. Political Repression and National Insecurity
The Repression of Dissent
Political Prisoners, USA
Toward a Police State
The National Security Autocracy

10. The Mass Media: For the Many, by the Few
He Who Pays the Piper
The Ideological Monopoly
Official Manipulation
Political Entertainment
Room for Alternatives?

11. The Greatest Show on Earth: Elections, Parties, and Voters
The Sound and the Fury
The Two-Party Monopoly
The Right to Vote
Voter "Apathy" and Participation
Democratic Input

12. Who Governs? Leaders, Lobbyists, or Labor?
The Ruling Class
Lobbyists: Special Treatment for Special Interests
Grass-Roots Lobbying
Labor Besieged

13. Congress: The Pocketing of Power
A Congress for the Money
A Special-Interest Committee System
Helping Themselves: The Varieties of Corruption
The Legislative Labyrinth
A Touch of Democracy

14. The President: Guardian of the System
Salesman of the System
The Two Faces of the President
A Loaded Electoral College
The "New Federalism" Ploy
The President versus Congress: Who Has the Power?

15. The Political Economy of Bureaucracy
The Myth and Reality of Inefficiency
Secrecy, Deception, and Unaccountability
Bureaucratic Action and Inaction
Serving the "Regulated"
Public Authority in Private Hands
Monopoly Regulation versus Public-Service regulation

16. The Supremely Political Court
Who judges?
Conservative Judicial Activism
Circumventing the First Amendment
As the Court Turns
Influence of the Court

17. Democracy for the Few
Pluralism for the Few
Reform and the "Mixed Economy"
Democracy as Class Struggle
The Two Faces of the State
What Is to be Done?


Subject Headings

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