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

Vulnerable Washington

In Washington, it could have been much worse. As a military strike, while the terrorists' attack succeeded in New York, it failed in the capital -- but for reasons that we cannot depend upon to protect us in the future. The bravery of a few passengers on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania prevented it from reaching its target, and for reasons as yet unknown the plane originating at Dulles that was streaking toward the White House veered and struck the Pentagon, killing a large number of people but failing to hit any command-related functions. The dangers now are evident. Just as hijackings were epidemic three decades ago, so we face the risk that new hijackers will follow the example of these attacks. Just as the terrorists returned to the World Trade Center, so their successors may try to finish the job in the capital, if not tomorrow, then a few years from now. The highest levels of our government are astonishingly vulnerable. All our major national institutions -- the executive...

The War We Should Fight

Let there be no doubt that America is justified in going to war against what President Bush describes as terrorism of "global reach." After September 11, we have to assume that any group willing to kill thousands of people in the World Trade Center's twin towers would be willing to use weapons of mass destruction. We have every right to defend ourselves by pursuing such terrorists not only in the United States and nations that ally themselves with us, but also in the countries that provide havens for them. Yet while a war is justified, it is not at all clear what kind of war it should be. There are both practical and moral risks of overextending American power and generating new troubles for ourselves and our friends in the Islamic world. Even the administration, which seems agreed on short-term objectives, is divided between those who favor an escalating war against an array of states (notably including Iraq) and those who favor a delimited war in Afghanistan. Amid the spectrum of...

Postcript to The Choice In Kosovo

When I wrote "The Choice In Kosovo" in early May, the failure of the United States and NATO to make a credible threat of a ground invasion seemed likely to result in a diplomatic settlement that fell far short of the legitimate aims of the war. A month later, these concerns have only partially been borne out. Milosevic has accepted the terms presented by NATO (and negotiated with Russia), calling for the withdrawal of Serbian forces, entry of an international peacekeeping force including NATO, repatriation of the refugees, disarming of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and apparently indefinite Yugoslavian sovereignty over Kosovo. The exact terms of the agreement and their practical implementation remain murky; in particular, it is unclear what control, if any, the Serbs will retain over Kosovo. Perhaps most unfortunate, Milosevic will stay in power unless the Serbs themselves depose him. In this regard, we are left with an outcome similar to the Gulf War; just as Saddam survived to...

Race, Liberalism, and Affirmative Action

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Civil Reconstruction: What to Do Without Affirmative Action

The time is approaching when we will have no alternative but to find a new road to equal opportunity in America. With the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court now will likely have a black justice among the majority when it votes to overturn Regents of the University of California v. Bakke , the 1978 decision upholding affirmative action at public institutions. The Court may also overturn or restrict the precedent set in United Steelworkers v. Weber , the 1979 decision approving private affirmative action plans. These cases, like others concerning affirmative action that came before the Court prior to 1989, were originally decided by narrow majorities that no longer exist. Bakke and Webe , for example, were both decided by 5-4 votes, and in Bakke no opinion represented more than four justices. In 1989 the Court seems to have taken a decisive turn when it voted 6-3 in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. to throw out Richmond's requirement that city contractors set aside 30...