Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of 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 eight books, including Entrenchment: Wealth, Power, and the Constitution of Democratic Societies (Yale University Press, May 2019).

Recent Articles

How Gilded Ages End

Protecting democracy from oligarchic dominance is, once again, a central imperative of American politics.

(Illustration: Victor Juhasz)
This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Celebrate our 25th Anniversary with us by clicking here for a free download of this special issue . Rising inequality seems to pose an insurmountable political problem. If the underlying causes are technological change and globalization, the forces appear to be unstoppable. Alternatively, if the causes are primarily political and involve the power of corporate and financial interests, the forces driving inequality may also appear to be overwhelming. Some people may conclude in despair that, for all practical purposes, nothing can be done. That conclusion, however, is unjustified for two reasons—first, because things have been and can be done to check increased inequality even in the short term; and second, because limiting the political power of concentrated wealth is a cause with deep American roots and wide support that is a difficult but achievable long-term goal. While economic...

What We Know Now

Twenty-five years later, the world has changed in crucial ways that factor into our thinking.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Celebrate our 25th Anniversary with us by clicking here for a free download of this special issue . In 1990, when the two of us started this magazine with Robert Reich, we saw a need and an opportunity. The Democrats had lost three presidential elections in a row, national policy had moved sharply to the right, and liberalism was in dire need of new ideas about the direction of the country. Some of the publications that we once looked to (and wrote for) had grown ambivalent about liberal politics or uninterested in engaging practical choices and no longer provided intellectual leadership. But the Reagan era was waning, and a new generation of writers and intellectuals was ready to pick up the challenge to think through alternatives. We saw the Prospect as bridging the usual divides between journalism and the academic world, and between policy and politics—and as a way to stimulate a...

The Crash of The New Republic

The mass exodus from the storied magazine was not the result of disagreements about the value of new technology.

(Sipa via AP Images)
This article appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . The tension between money and left-of-center politics has its correlate in the world of the media. Like liberal political candidates, liberal political magazines depend on wealthy donors in what is often an uneasy relationship. That tension was evident in the implosion of The New Republic in early December, when nearly all the magazine’s well-known editors and writers quit after its owner, Facebook millionaire Chris Hughes, replaced the top leadership and announced he was turning the magazine into a “digital media company.” Ever since its founding 100 years ago, The New Republic has occupied a singular place in liberal politics and intellectual life. A complete history of American liberalism would need an entire chapter on The New Republic —and a second chapter on unhappiness about The New Republic in its various incarnations. It was during one of those episodes of...

Red State, Blue State: Polarization and the American Situation

The country is stuck but it is not stationary. Some things are changing—just not at the federal level.

(Map: Angr/Wikimedia Commons; Flag: AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) A racing fan waves an American flag as they wait for the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas, Sunday, November 2, 2014, in Austin, Texas. This article appears under the title "The American Situation" in the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. America, it seems, is stuck—unable to make significant progress on critical issues such as climate change, rising economic inequality, and immigration. To explain that inaction, people often point to political polarization. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, are now so sharply opposed to each other that they are unable to find common ground. But while the country is stuck, it is not stationary. Some things are changing; it’s just not at the federal level that the changes are emerging. Polarization leads to stalemate only under certain circumstances—when the two sides in a conflict are closely balanced, and political institutions and...

The American Prospect Continues

When we started The American Prospect with Robert Reich in 1990, our aim was to foster a “plausible and persuasive liberalism” by bringing together journalists and scholars into a public conversation about the future of American society and politics. In nearly 25 years, the Prospect has undergone numerous changes both in print and online, but as we return to a more direct role than we have had in recent years, the Prospect ’s mission remains the same—cultivating the ideas and the reporting needed to help build a democratic politics and a decent society. We are committed to keeping the Prospect as a strong and vital voice, both as a magazine (in both print and digital forms) and as a website. The magazine will continue its blend of analytical essays and deeply reported articles on politics, economics, and culture. The website will continue with fresh material to be updated daily. We will maintain our writing fellows program, which has helped to launch the...

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