America, it is often argued, emerged from the Enlightenment. It follows that the prevailing elements of politics in the United States are echoes of struggles among what is here referred to as the moderate Enlightenment, the conservative Enlightenment, and the radical Enlightenment. These lead to conflicting political doctrines which variously address the fundamental questions of who should rule, and why, and how. The outcome is a confusing mélange of a tri-partite civil war among those who claim the Enlightenment as their own.
This is accompanied by a long history of resistance, to the Enlightenment itself, a phenomenon which leads to deeper concerns. Sometimes referred to as the Counter-Enlightenment, this has been largely expressed by the Romantic contentions of an authoritarian nationalism. Indeed, its most dramatic manifestations have been realized in fascism and Nazism. In this manner, they constitute a step back into the historical mist, comprising a major attack on both reason and empiricism as the foundation of a scientific approach.
Out of this combination of limitation and possibility emanate the essential power configurations of the epoch, yielding policies that are often perceived to be “democratic,” either as threat or achievement. Accordingly, the book explores the actual substance of the democratic argument. On this basis, it contends that a progressive position necessitates a search for the material foundation of a more egalitarian pluralism as the only rational surrogate for majorities within a nation of enormous size, population, and the complexities of concentration that are beyond the reach of democracy in any literal sense.
This work is rooted in one of the major traditions that emerged from the Western world of the late eighteenth century. Thus it is informed by the doctrinal contentions of people like Thomas Paine, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. As such, it largely opposes a tradition that flows from the writings of Adam Smith, John Adams, and James Madison, and even more so to that associated with Edmund Burke, Alexander Hamilton, and John Marshall. Its focus is on how these ideas play out in a world wherein a generic fascism is also a major theme always looming
Paul N. Goldstene is professor emeritus at California State University, Sacramento.
Chapter 1 - Liberal Economics as a System of Power
Chapter 2 - The Conservative Consequences of Liberal Supremacy
Chapter 3 - The Romantic Assault on the Enlightenment
Chapter 4 - Democracy and the Idea of Progress
Chapter 5 - The Material Conditions of Democracy
Chapter 6 - The Problem of Majorities
Chapter 7 - A Liberal System Under Assault
Chapter 8 - The American Version of Corporatism
Chapter 9 - Pluralism, the Enlightenment, and Science
Chapter 10 - From Liberal Man to Democratic Man
For years Dr. Paul Goldstene has published many noteworthy works on U.S. political theory. He is one of America’s pre-eminent political philosophers. Now he has written a seminal work titled Democracy and Its Enemies: The American Struggle for the Enlightenment. He provides a thorough account of the major threats to democratic ideals which flourish in today’s world. He argues the primary enemies of democracy are not from foreign lands but from right here at home. For the millions of Americans trying to explain how the U.S. arrived at the current malady of our body politic, this book provides the background.
Goldstene has chosen an important topic and carries out his analysis in a way that should dispel any notion that a truly radical “left” perspective has vanished from contemporary American political thought. His treatise addresses real problems with “the inclinations of corporatism” and will set its readers thinking, even if their thinking does not lead to the same conclusions as the author’s.
Goldstene's argument, blending, as it does, learned historical and political scholarship with contemporary political conviction, is a must read example of powerful and provocative "political theory for today."