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

The War about the War

"If something is defined as real, it is real," goes a common dictum of the social sciences. The passive voice, however, conceals an uncertainty: Defined by whom? What if, for example, two antagonists define their conflict in opposing ways? As American forces strike in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban say this is a religious war--a view that reportedly has resonance through much, though not all, of the Islamic world. If not merely our adversaries but millions of others define the war as religious, is that the reality? No, we say, we have no conflict with Islam. Muslims in America live in peace and enjoy the right to practice their religion more freely than in many officially Islamic countries. In Kosovo we intervened on behalf of a Muslim people. If there is prejudice in America against Arabs and Muslims, it violates our deepest principles and we mean to combat it. We frame the war in different ways. At the most general level, we say this is the War on Terrorism, a war...

How Low Can You Go?

THE PERFECT SPOKESMEN A lthough they get little respect from political analysts, the forces of irony have been hard at work in the new Congress. They showed their subversive influence when the House Republican leadership chose Representative Thomas Bliley of Virginia to chair the committee in charge of health legislation. Bliley, a long-time advocate of tobacco interests, is an undertaker by profession. The same hidden forces must have been responsible when Senate Republicans picked Alfonse D'Amato to spearhead the special investigation of Whitewater. Purity has never had more transparent representation than from Al and his pals. Was it also the forces of irony that put Representative Christopher Cox of California in charge of legislation to change the nation's securities laws to make it more difficult for investors to sue companies and their advisors for fraud? Cox is currently a defendant in just such a case stemming from his prior legal practice, in which investors in two real...

Failure to Convert

P olitical parties rarely make deep changes in their societies by winning a single election. Once in power they generally need to reinforce their support, repeat their triumphs at the polls, and so change the terms of politics that even their opponents adjust their positions. That is what Margaret Thatcher did, and Tony Blair may be in a comparable position now that he has won a second landslide victory. The prospects for George W. Bush are, thankfully, much less certain. If the first phase of his presidency is any indication, he may be Thatcher-like in his ideological convictions but not in his long-term impact on politics. This was one of the big questions after Republicans took undivided control of the government in January for the first time in nearly half a century: Could they convert their razor-thin victories into durable majorities? Much of the Republican program is best understood in terms of its potential long-term payoff in entrenching conservative power: tax cuts that make...

A Believable Politics

Liberal public inspiration is in short supply these days. To be sure, with his environmental, energy, and tax policies, President Bush is doing his best to unify moderates and liberals, and the Democratic Party may emerge stronger as a result. But a believable progressivism that can inspire deep commitment as well as win majority support requires more than a defensive coalition. This summer, 29 college students from around the country confronted that challenge at a two-week program called the Century Institute that I helped to organize in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Meeting independently of the staff, the students formulated a statement of their own "commitment to social justice and the fight for equality," emphasizing a wide array of concerns that matter to them. The Williamstown statement discusses many familiar issues, beginning with environmental protection and responsibility, widening income inequalities, and the need to raise living standards for the poor. The students continue...

Liberalism After Clinton

W ill a conservative or liberal agenda be at the center of national politics during the next four years? No matter how centrist George W. Bush and Al Gore sound, that is what the fall election is still fundamentally about. Conservatives seem to understand the choice and have lined up behind Bush. Many liberals don't and are withholding their support from Gore. If that ambivalence persists--according to polls through July, Gore draws less support from Democrats than Bush does from Republicans--it could signal low turnout, defections to Nader, and disaster for the Democrats in November, with enormous consequences for the future. A Bush victory will give conservative causes new momentum and throw liberals on the defensive. Liberals will spend the next four years fighting a series of rearguard battles against regressive tax cuts, the privatization of Social Security and education, and the rollback of environmental and other protective regulations. In the Reagan-Bush era, liberals had...

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