Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of the 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 seven books, including most recently Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Heath Care Reform (Yale University Press, revised ed. 2013). Click here to read more about Starr.

Recent Articles

How Bushes Get Beaten

O nly a short time ago the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, whoever that might be, seemed to face two possibilities: losing to George W. Bush by a respectable margin or being wiped out in a colossal landslide. Such dismal prospects, if they had persisted into next year, would have hampered Democratic fund raising and put the entire 2004 ticket at risk of being overwhelmed by a spiral of despondency and self-fulfilling expectations of defeat. But the picture looks different now that corporate scandals and panicky markets have reframed the national conversation and put Republicans on the defensive. The new political climate has boosted Democrats' morale going into the midterm elections, made a victory in 2004 entirely plausible and helped to clarify what Democratic primary voters may be looking for in a presidential nominee. Although history never repeats itself, the emerging framework of politics bears some resemblance to the situation that developed before the 1992 election...

The New Politics of Diversity

A ffirmative action in higher education is almost certainly on its way back to the Supreme Court in the wake of contradictory appellate decisions about racial preferences in admissions. Ten years ago it seemed that the Court might strike down affirmative action altogether in public universities. While that conceivably could still happen, the political context has substantially changed, and the outcome is now more likely to be an adjustment of policies in support of diversity rather than their abrupt reversal. And for that blessing we have to thank the interplay of demography and politics and a subtle shift in American ideals. Demographic change is a slow force that typically works beneath the surface of politics, only occasionally breaking into view. The rise of the Hispanic population is the most conspicuous example of the process today. Though they were only 7 percent of the electorate in 2000 (when Gore enjoyed a 36-point edge among them), Hispanics are certain to gain power at the...

Catholic Crisis, Jewish Nightmare

T he sources of moral anguish are entirely different, and some on each side may reject -- and even resent -- the comparison. But as Catholics confront a sex-abuse scandal in the Church and Jews agonize over events in Israel, there are striking parallels between the moral crises the two groups are experiencing. A central question in both cases is whether institutions sacred to each group have failed to uphold fundamental ethical principles. And, in each case, the principles at issue have a singular symbolic importance. The Catholic Church has partly defined itself through its rules of celibacy for priests and nuns and its conservative teachings about sexuality. The protection of the young has always been a principal concern. In that context, there could hardly be a more grievous institutional failure than cover-ups by Church authorities of child molestation by priests. The Jewish tradition has upheld the importance of law, and modern Jewish identity is framed by the experience of the...

Peace By Other Means

I f Israel and the Palestinians cannot make peace with each other, what should the United States and the rest of the world do? Merely offering to mediate may not be enough. The descent into savage violence in recent weeks is not just another episode in a long -running dispute; it is a turn toward outright war between two commingled societies. With the suicide bombings (actually, suicide-homicide bombings), the Palestinians have crossed a moral threshold; nothing is forbidden to them. The Israeli military response has been understandable, but the logic underlying it is ultimately untenable: It is a delusion to believe that by temporarily occupying Palestinian areas, the army can root out the "terrorist infrastructure." The required explosives are impossible to control, and there is no shortage of volunteers willing to blow themselves up. Rather than quelling resistance, the military occupation has only solidified it. Every signal points to a continued spiral of vengeance. The Israelis...

Rethinking the Unthinkable

H istory seems to have cheated us out of the freedom from anxiety we expected after the Cold War ended. When the Soviet Union collapsed, no power on earth appeared capable of threatening our security. And for a decade, until September 11, we enjoyed the happy illusion that we had safely arrived in a future that belonged entirely to America. The shattering of that idyll may explain why so many of us who suffered no direct loss last September nonetheless feel we did lose something we had counted on. Victory in Afghanistan has scarcely put to rest anxieties about terrorism; the war, we are told, will move on to its next phase as America gears up for a long struggle with shadowy enemies. Meanwhile, the spiral of violence in Israel raises passions in the Middle East to a boil and increases the chances that terror will again reach halfway across the world to strike Americans at home. Scarcely a day passes without serious discussion about terrorists' potential acquisition of weapons of mass...

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