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.