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

Cultures of Impunity

Whether it's corporate crime, police homicide, or sexual assault, the issue is the same: Does the law apply to everyone?

NY Daily News via Getty Images
NY Daily News via Getty Images Eric Garner died while being arrested by police in Staten Island on July 17, 2014. This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . It is sometimes hard for us to recognize problems in our own society that we can readily identify abroad. International human rights and anti-corruption reformers talk about “cultures of impunity” in Third World countries where murder, the looting of economic resources, and other crimes by the powerful regularly go unpunished. The police, high government officials, and their cronies in the private sector not only abuse their power; they do so knowing that they will never be held to account and that their victims know that, too. In such situations, establishing the rule of law involves far more than instituting formal legal procedures. It requires transforming everyday expectations about equality and demonstrating in practice that the powerful can and will be...

Richard Leone, Capable Liberal

Remembering the public servant and liberal intellectual

The Century Foundation
Liberal intellectuals with managerial and political acumen are all too rare. Richard Leone, who passed away last week, was one of those people with an unusual combination of intellectual seriousness and practical skill, which he used to great advantage in both public service and public debate. Leone played a role on both the state and national stages. In his early 30s, as state treasurer of New Jersey, he was instrumental in bringing honest, progressive government to a state long known for its corrupt tendencies. Later, as chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, he did the same for an agency that the current governor of New Jersey has flagrantly abused. And for more than two decades, Leone served as president of the Century Foundation and focused its efforts on the critical issues of our time. Always more than a neutral manager, he made the case for liberal policy in well-turned op-eds and other articles. Leone might have played a bigger role nationally. In 1978,...

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...