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11 - Polarization, the Administrative State, and Executive-Centered Partisanship

from Part IV - Vicious Circles? The Relationship between Polarized Behavior and Institutions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2021

Robert C. Lieberman
Affiliation:
The Johns Hopkins University
Suzanne Mettler
Affiliation:
Cornell University, New York
Kenneth M. Roberts
Affiliation:
Cornell University, New York
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Summary

Fierce partisan conflict in the United States is not new. Throughout American history, there have been polarizing struggles over fundamental questions relating to the meaning of the Declaration, the Constitution, and the relationship between the two. These struggles over ideals have become all encompassing when joined to battles over what it means to be an American – conflicts that have become more regular and dangerous with the rise of the administrative state. The idea of a “State” cuts more deeply than suggested by Max Weber’s definition of “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” Beyond the powers of government, the State represents a centralizing ambition (at least for progressive reformers) to cultivate, or impose, a vision of citizenship. In Randolph Bourne’s words, the State is a “concept of power” that comes alive in defense of or in conflict with an ideal of how such foundational values of Americanism as “free and enlightened” are to be interpreted and enforced. The ideal is symbolized not by the Declaration and the Constitution but rather in rallying emblems such as the flag and Uncle Sam.

Type
Chapter
Information
Democratic Resilience
Can the United States Withstand Rising Polarization?
, pp. 267 - 296
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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