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

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...

Why I'm Not a Populist

I t was just about 100 years ago, after the defeat of William Jennings Bryan in 1896, that the original, agrarian Populist movement collapsed and gave way to the more broadly based Progressivism of the early 1900s that permanently altered American government and society. But Populism, despite its short and checkered history, survives in our political vocabulary, and there are a fair number of people who brighten up at the thought of a populist revival. I am, however, not among them. From the outset, the populist impulse has been to play upon one public emotion above all: anger. That anger has typically been directed at a diffuse enemy at the top--the monopolies, the interests, or elites of various kinds. The populist mind suspects conspiracies in high places, often in league with foreign influences, and appeals to a kind of insular Americanism that is suspicious of both immigrants and other countries. The grievances that populism taps are no doubt genuine. Its rhetoric and remedies...

Restoration Fever

M ost of us like to think that our views represent the innermost beliefs of the majority of our fellow citizens. Recent polls may show a ridiculous preference for a position we despise, our candidates may lose at election time, and the radio may broadcast music or talk that we abhor. But we know that all this is ephemeral: Deep in their hearts, the majority agree with us about what is right and good. And if they don't say so or act accordingly just now, the trend is moving in our direction. Let those who think differently tremble at the verdict of an awakened nation. Cultural conservatives have waited for a national awakening for at least 30 years, even longer. Through most of this century, Americans have become steadily more tolerant of practices that once met general opprobrium. Unmarried couples now live together unashamedly, divorce is easier and more common, and contraception and abortion have become legal and accepted. As censorship has effectively disappeared, the explicit...

Passion, Memory, and Politics, 1992

F rom its founding nearly three years ago, The American Prospect has sought to help reconstruct a plausible and persuasive liberalism. This issue's cluster of articles concerned with a public investment strategy for economic growth exemplifies that purpose: substantive, detailed thinking about how to solve the nation's problems, rather than symbolic gestures. Yet, as this political season has reminded us, there is another aspect to the conflict over public ideas in America that is inevitably and properly symbolic. It is a battle over cultural ideals, ways of life, the meaning of the past. And that conflict is inseparable from the hard choices in economics, social policy, and even foreign affairs. Clashes over cultural ideals and ways of life are hardly new in the United States. The passions aroused by the temperance movement as this century began were not wholly unlike those aroused by today's conservative crusades for "family values" and against abortion and gay rights. Temperance,...

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