Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect. and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history, he is the author of eight books, including Entrenchment: Wealth, Power, and the Constitution of Democratic Societies, which will be out next year.

Recent Articles

The Cultural Enemy Within

In the past year, the opinion has gained currency, particularly in conservative circles, that the great ideological battles of our time are shifting to the terrain of culture. The controversies over free speech and the arts; multiculturalism and education; the relevance of gender, race, and class to the study of the humanities and society; the relation between popular and high culture; the prominence of violence and sexuality in popular music and the mass media -- these and other questions have been stirring stronger passions, at least on campuses and the opinion pages, than any dispute over economic policy or electoral politics. Indeed, in America today it often seems that genuinely interesting political issues are more likely to turn up in an art exhibit or a curriculum dispute than in an election campaign. When controversy shifts from economic to cultural questions, the right today becomes the party of alarm and indignation. To listen to some cultural conservatives -- not merely to...

A World Unlocked

"We make our vision, and hold it ready for any amendment that experience suggests. It is not a fixed picture, a row of shiny ideals which we can exhibit to mankind and say: Achieve these or be damned. All we can do is to search the world as we find it, extricate the forces that seem to move it, and surround them with criticism and suggestion.... Too far ahead there is nothing but your dream; just behind, there is nothing but your memory. But in the unfolding present, man can be creative if his vision is gathered from the promise of actual things." —Walter Lippmann, Drift and Mastery I t is a conceit of new publications that their appearance coincides with an historic change. By good fortune, ours does. A year ago, when planning this journal, we conceived it as an effort to renew the sense of political possibility that had faded in an era of fiscal gridlock and conservative sway in America. But that sense of possibility has now already been unlocked by distant events. The revolutionary...

Civil Reconstruction: What to Do Without Affirmative Action

The time is approaching when we will have no alternative but to find a new road to equal opportunity in America. With the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court now will likely have a black justice among the majority when it votes to overturn Regents of the University of California v. Bakke , the 1978 decision upholding affirmative action at public institutions. The Court may also overturn or restrict the precedent set in United Steelworkers v. Weber , the 1979 decision approving private affirmative action plans. These cases, like others concerning affirmative action that came before the Court prior to 1989, were originally decided by narrow majorities that no longer exist. Bakke and Webe , for example, were both decided by 5-4 votes, and in Bakke no opinion represented more than four justices. In 1989 the Court seems to have taken a decisive turn when it voted 6-3 in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. to throw out Richmond's requirement that city contractors set aside 30...

Liberalism After Socialism

Some have long wanted to blend socialism and liberalism in a “third way”; that idea is now in ruins. But the alternative to a socialist liberalism need not be conservative. There is a liberalism that is serious, realistic, and where necessary even radical about liberal purposes.

Over the past century, many reformers and critics in the West have believed that liberal democratic capitalism was evolving, inexorably and appropriately, toward a socialist, planned economy. Liberalism even in its modern form has seemed to them transitional and incomplete, outdated in its individualism, unsatisfying in its conception of the good life and the good society, inadequate to the demands of justice. Socialism would take civilization to a higher stage; it would fulfill ideals that liberalism professed but failed to honor, as well as ideals that liberalism failed even to profess. Those who have taken this view have not necessarily been Marxists. Most have been devoted to movements of reform rather than revolution and sought an alternative system that they hoped would achieve the best of both worlds, preserving the political freedoms of liberal democracy while introducing the economic planning, public ownership, and economic equality of socialism. This is the synthesis that...

Pages