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American Democracy in Peril

American Democracy in Peril
Eight Challenges to America's Future

Ninth Edition

February 2020 | 448 pages | CQ Press
American Democracy in Peril encapsulates the tumultuous state of American politics. By introducing the history of democratic theory in terms of four “models” of democracy, Hudson provides readers with a set of criteria against which to evaluate the challenges discussed later. This provocative book offers a structured yet critical examination of the American political system, designed to stimulate students to consider how the facts they learn about American politics relate to democratic ideals. This new edition incorporates the Trump Presidency and the polarization that has accompanied his leadership.

Tables and Figures
About the Author
Introduction: Models of Democracy
Precursors to Modern Democratic Theory

Protective Democracy

Developmental Democracy

Pluralist Democracy

Participatory Democracy

The Models Compared

1. The First Challenge: Separation of Powers
The Founders’ Work

The Jeffersonian Model

The Separation of Powers and Democratic Values

The Parliamentary Alternative

Meeting the Challenge: Bridging the Separation of Powers

2. The Second Challenge: The Imperial Judiciary
The Least Democratic Branch

A Brief History of Judicial Review

Two Cases of Judicial Usurpation

Can Judicial Review Be Made Consistent With Democracy?

The Judicialization of American Politics as a Challenge to Democracy

Meeting the Challenge: Revitalize American Democracy

3. The Third Challenge: Radical Individualism
Individualism in the American Tradition

American “Habits of the Heart”

The Flaws of Libertarianism

Our Pathological Politics of Rights and Interests

Individual Isolation and the Politics of Spectacle

Meeting the Challenge: Balancing Rights With Responsibilities

4. The Fourth Challenge: Citizen Participation
Citizen Participation and Democratic Theory

Citizen Political Participation

Signs of Civic Disengagement

The New Citizen Activism

Participation as a Challenge to Democracy

Meeting the Challenge: More Participation, Not Less

5. The Fifth Challenge: Elections Without the People’s Voice
Equal Representation



Meeting the Challenge: Reforming Electoral Institutions, Promoting Democratic Deliberation

6. The Sixth Challenge: The “Privileged Position” of Business
American Politics as Pluralist Heaven

Business: The Privileged Group

Why Business Privilege Is a Threat to Democracy

Objections to the Privileged-Position-of-Business Thesis

Meeting the Challenge: Taking Democratic Action to Reduce Business Privilege

7. The Seventh Challenge: Economic Inequality
Equality and Democratic Theory

The End of the American Dream?

Economic Inequality’s Challenge to Democracy

Meeting the Challenge: Enacting Policies to Promote Equality

8. The Eighth Challenge: The National Security State
The Burgeoning of the National Security State





Meeting the Challenge: Reforming to Achieve True Security

Key features


  • Updated coverage of gridlock of our separation-of-powers system combined with a growing partisan polarization that has fostered distrust of government..
  • New coverage of the Trump presidency, changes to the Supreme Court membership, and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • New material on patterns of partisan consumption of news , the growing "amateur journalism" trend, and a new section on individual isolation and the politics of spectacle. 
  • Updated content on campaign funding and unequal representation present in the 2016 elections.


  • Introduces the history of democratic theory in terms of four “models” of democracy, giving students a set of criteria against which to evaluate the challenges discussed later.
  • Throughout the book, the author argues his own point of view regarding each challenge to stimulate and engage the reader in thinking critically about these challenges.
  • Chapter-ending Meeting the Challenge sections help open a positive discussion of what policies or reforms may be needed to address the challenge described in the chapter.
  • Open-ended thought questions at the end of each chapter encourage debate about key arguments and further promote critical thinking. 

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