Monday, August 25, 2008

Book Review

Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism by Sheldon S. Wolin

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
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 not to actually compare Bush to Hitler, but he does introduce the concept of "Inverted Totalitarianism." His theory is the Bush regime's politics and style of governing mirrors the totalitarianism of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. Wolin goes on to aver this new style of totalitarianism could very well be an "epitaph for democracy in America."

The book points out that "Fascism is the product of democracy gone wrong, that had working constitutional systems which they gave up voluntarily." Wolin says recent studies have argued that "democracy has contributed importantly to the rise of Nazis and Fascists, and even served as a preparation." The same citizenry which democracy had created, proceeded to vote into power and then support movements openly pledged to destroy democracy and constitutionalism.

Bush's response to 9/11, in a very real way, caused thye perversion of America's democracy. "...Elements of invereted totalitarianism could not crystallize in the absence of a stimulus that would rouse the apathetic just enough to gain their support and obedience," says Wolin, "The threat of terrorism supplied that demand."

The Bush Administration used a document called The National Security Strategy of the United States (NSS), issued in 2002, to declare the president's intention to "reshape the current world and define the new one -- 'In the new world we have entered, 'it declared grandly, 'the only path to safety is the path of action.'" Wolin says at that instant, a new world [order?] had been born and the old world had been superceded.

This new doctrine was "an attempt to reshape the existing political system by enlarging the powers of the executive branch of government, including the military and policy functions, while reducing the legal protections of citizens."

Wolin explains how Bush used the elements of fear and power to "promote an awesome concentration of state power and authority" by representing that outcome as the product of popular consent. He made the only other alternative out to be chaos. Terrorism became Bush's boogeyman and scapegoat all rolled into one.

Wolin states "[Iraq] was fated to be selected as a testing ground..." In the NSS, "unilaterally, the United States declares it is justified in reconstructing the infrastructure of other societies." First, we subjected Iraq to awesome destruction, then after we destroyed the nation we went to work to try to reconstruct it into the an Islamic democracy.

What Wolin doesn't mention and may be the biggest wrong in the entire Iraq debacle: It was the American CIA that originally put Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party in power in Iraq, in the late 1940s. I guess you could say we built it, we broke it, now we are going to try to fix it.

Other evidences of the inverted totalitarian nature of what our republic has become is the belief that preemptive wars are alright, America can violate treaties and ignore international law. Wolin calls this the Superpower mentality.

The author accurately points out the Iraq War had its origins not in Southeast Asia but in Florida "where power without legitimacy was first envisioned. That was when power brokers found out that, if sufficiently determined, they could overcome the inhibitions of democratic constitutionalism." Perhaps if Al Gore had won the election of 2000, America might still be a democracy.

Democracy, Inc. is a serious and important work that can only contribute to our understanding of how and why the Republican Party has hijacked our country. The author holds out little hope that we can convert our country back into a democracy from the inverted totalitarian state it has become. I'll be damned if I vote for a Republican this year!

View all my reviews.

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