No other country in the world evokes such contrasting sentiments as the United States of America. This is not new, but it has become particularly virulent in recent years. The reason is simple: after the end of the cold war America has remained the only super power in the world. Or rather, it has become a veritable hyper-power without apparent limits to the exercise of its power. The fate of the world lies in large part in its hands. This book analyses the most widespread criticisms of American democracy - namely , that it is plebiscitary, devoid of voters, unduly favours the rich, and imperial. It shows that these criticisms fail to hit the mark. Yet even if its vices are fewer and different from what its critics often claim, American democracy cannot be read as an exemplary catalogue of virtues, as its apologists would have it. Resting on contradictions rather than coherence, American democracy cannot be seen as a model and even less as an ideology. Rather it should be understood as a method.
Clearing away the misunderstandings and prejudices that cloud contemporary debates about America, this book brings out with exceptional clarity the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the American democratic experience. In a century when no country can hope to escape from the influence of American power, it is vital to understand both.
Sergio Fabbrini is Professor of Political Science at the University of Trento.
PREFACE. CHAPTER. 1 - ANTI-AMERICANISM IN EUROPE. 1.1. Introduction. 1.2 Anti-Americanism in European Context. 1.3. America and the European Left. 1.4. America and the European Right. 1.5. America and the European Catholic Center. 1.6. Misunderstanding America. 1.7. Conclusion. CHAPTER 2 - A PLEBISCITARY DEMOCRACY?. 2.1. Introduction. 2.2. The Origins of Separated Government. 2.3. Congressional Government. 2.4. The Crisis of Congressional Government. 2.5. Presidential Government. 2.6. The Difficulties of Presidential Government. 2.7. Conclusion. CHAPTER 3 - A DEMOCRACY WITHOUT THE PEOPLE?. 3.1. Introduction. 3.2. The Characteristics of the Electoral System. 3.3 The Developments of the Electoral Process. 3.4. Why Americans don't vote: the debate. 3.5. Political Parties from Decline to Transformation?. 3.6. Conclusion. CHAPTER 4 - A DEMOCRACY FOR THE RICH?. 4.1. Introduction. 4.2. The American Commercial Republic. 4.3. The Neo-conservative Revolution. 4.4. The Weakness of the Democrats: The Two Clinton Presidencies. 4.5. The Anti-politics of the Elites: Term Limits and Recall. 4.6. The Social Implications of American Liberalism. 4.7 Conclusion. CHAPTER 5 - AN IMPERIAL DEMOCRACY?. 5.1. Introduction. 5.2. Foreign and Domestic Policy in America. 5.3. Hegemonic America and the Cold War. 5.4. The End of the Cold War and the First Gulf War. 5.5. The 1990s and the Schizophrenic Power. 5.6. George W. Bush's America and the Second Gulf War. 5.7. Conclusion. CHAPTER 6. CONCLUSIONS - AMERICA AS A METHOD. 6.1 Introduction. 6.2. American Exceptionalism. 6.3 The Societal and Institutional Antinomies. 6.4. Political Change and American Antinomies. 6.5. America: a Model or a Method?. 6.6. Conclusion