Reading Liberally

This year brings a bumper crop of books about liberal politics and ideas, and three of those books come from the co-founders of this magazine.

The first of the three to appear was Paul Starr's Freedom's Power: The True Force of Liberalism, published in April by Basic Books. Freedom's Power is both a historical interpretation of liberalism and a defense of its modern egalitarian and inclusive form. The book argues "that freedom requires power in the form of a strong and capable constitutional state and that modern democratic liberalism -- by enlarging that state in some respects while constraining it in others -- makes it possible for a society to achieve both greater power and greater freedom."

Robert Reich's Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life, to be published by Knopf in September, explores why capitalism has become supercharged but democracy has been enfeebled in America during the past 30 years. Rejecting the view that globalization has inevitably shifted power to corporations, Reich emphasizes that citizens still have the power to determine the rules of the game: "Keeping supercapitalism from spilling over into democracy is the only constructive agenda for change," Reich maintains.

Robert Kuttner's The Squandering of America: How the Failure of our Politics Undermines our Prosperity, to be published by Knopf in November, discusses how the instruments that allowed postwar America to be a more equal and fair society -- economic regulation, progressive taxation, trade unionism, and constraints on speculative financial capital -- have been systematically weakened by the elite capture of politics. The influence of economic elites, Kuttner also argues, prevents the Democrats from addressing the pocketbook frustrations of ordinary voters, and he calls for a revival of bold progressivism as a way to reclaim both politics and economics.

In addition, senior editor Tara McKelvey has published Monstering: Inside America's Policy on Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War (Carroll & Graf, April). Based on her original reporting, the book investigates, as she has put it, "what happened beyond the frame of the Abu Ghraib photos."

Two senior correspondents also have new books: Joshua Kurlantzick, Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World (Yale University Press, April) and Chris Mooney, Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming (Harcourt, July).

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