Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America
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This is a beautifully written and argued book. It was a finalist for a National Book Award (nonfiction) and received the 2017 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Award for an Especially Notable Book. It has been very positively reviewed in the New York Review of Books, Boston Review of Books, and LA Review of Books. At the same time, most academic reviewers have taken it to task, arguing that the book gets the story mostly or completely wrong. A majority of the academic critics are libertarians who take a personal interest in the debate, but not all – some are scholars with no obvious ax to grind.
Frankly, if the author, Nancy MacLean, weren’t a highly respected scholar, a chaired professor of history and public policy at an elite university, Democracy in Chains probably would have been ignored by most of its academic critics. As Henry Farrell and Steven Teles observe: “If Democracy in Chainswere just another overheated partisan book, it wouldn’t be worth discussing.” However, both...