on US democratic crisis as the result of an intellectual failure

Meaney_greatchastening_ba_imgThomas Meaney at The Nation:

The account of democracy in Political Order is one piece of Dunn’s puzzle. Like Dunn, Fukuyama is concerned with the “pseudo-democratic authorization of almost everything in the United States.” His book is a remarkably levelheaded and empirically grounded account of how certain homegrown ideas about democracy in America have created daunting obstacles to effective governance. To his credit, Fukuyama has not written a new entry in the fashionable genre of American decline. Nor is he concerned with conservative critiques of American society and culture, which go back at least as far as Brooks Adams’s The Law of Civilization and Decay (1895). Instead, Fukuyama has tackled something more precise and disturbing: the political decay of American political institutions. In the 1960s, Samuel Huntington used the term “political decay” to explain political instability in many newly independent countries after World War II, but for Fukuyama the problem that once afflicted the international periphery now bedevils the core. Central to his argument is the assumption that the United States in particular has lost the balance between democratic oversight and bureaucratic capacity. The problem is not that there is too much bureaucracy, or too much state power, or anything resembling an imperial presidency, but rather that each of these institutions has deteriorated beyond recognition and suffers from a deficit of legitimacy.

As Fukuyama sees it, the American state, starting in the second half of the twentieth century, stopped running according to Madisonian principles, in which the disarray of interest groups was supposed to produce something recognizable as the public interest.

more here.