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Democracy in Chains

The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

Nancy MacLean

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Scribe Publications
28 August 2017
History; History of the Americas; Liberalism & centre democratic ideologies; Conservatism & right-of-centre democratic ideologies; Political structures: democracy
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- This book tells the story of how US businessman Charles Koch has used the work of Nobel Prizewinning economist James Buchanan to try to influence politics, education and the rights of workers in America. It gives a fascinating insight into a part of American politics most of us never hear about. I found the author’s arguments compelling, and she writes really well. The chapter on how Buchanan worked with the Pinochet regime was particularly interesting (although depressing). Highly recommended. David Hall

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An explosive exposé of the man and the ideas behind the well-heeled right's relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatise public education, and curb democratic majority rule.


Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over US government is a secretive political establishment with deep and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. This book names its true architect — Nobel Prize–winning political economist James McGill Buchanan — and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

In a brilliant, engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how these ideas were forged in a last-gasp attempt to preserve the white elite's power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. By recasting the era's legal and social-movement successes, Buchanan developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the majority's ability to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.?? Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were eager to support Buchanan's work in teaching others how to divide America into ‘makers’ and ‘takers'. And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan's strategy.

Based on ten years of research, this revelatory work tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok, and is a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.
By:   Nancy MacLean
Imprint:   Scribe Publications
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 154mm,  Spine: 27mm
Weight:   480g
ISBN:   9781925322583
ISBN 10:   1925322580
Pages:   408
Publication Date:   28 August 2017
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Nancy MacLean is the award-winning author of Behind the Mask of Chivalry (a New York Times 'noteworthy' book of the year) and Freedom is Not Enough, which was called by the Chicago Tribune 'contemporary history at its best.' The William Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, she lives in Durham, North Carolina.

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