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“We can have a democratic society or we can have the concentration of great wealth in the hands of the few. We cannot have both.”

— Louis Brandeis
Supreme Court Justice from 1916-1939

Democracy for the Few

by Michael Parenti.  Bookcover has a photograph of an impoverished bag lady resting beside a hedge in Washington D.C., with the huge, elegant White House nearby in the background.

From the Michael Parenti Political Archive:

The study of politics is itself a political act, containing little that is neutral. True, we can all agree on certain neutral facts about the structure of government and the like. However, the book that does not venture much beyond these minimal descriptions will offend few readers but also will interest few. Any determined pursuit of how and why things happen draws us into highly controversial areas. Most textbooks pretend to a neutrality they do not really possess. While claiming to be objective, they are merely conventional. They depict the status quo in implicitly accepting terms, propagating fairly orthodox notions about American politics.

For decades, mainstream political scientists and other apologists for the existing social order have tried to transform practically every deficiency in our political system into a strength.

They would have us believe that the millions who are nonvoters are content with present social conditions, that high-powered lobbyists are nothing to worry about because they perform an information function vital to representative government, and that the growing concentration of executive power is a good thing because the president is democratically responsive to broad national interests.

The apologists have argued that the exclusion of third parties is really for the best because too many parties (that is, more than two) would fractionalize and destabilize our political system, and besides, the major parties eventually incorporate into their platforms the positions raised by minor parties (which is news to a number of socialist parties whose views have remained unincorporated throughout this entire century).

Reacting to the mainstream tendency to turn every vice into a virtue, left critics of the status quo have felt compelled to turn every virtue into a vice... Democracy for the Few tries to strike a balance; it tries to explain how democracy is incongruous with modern-day capitalism and is consistently violated by a capitalist social order, and yet how democracy refuses to die and continues to fight back and even make gains despite the great odds against popular forces.

“American capitalism represents more than just an economic system; it is an entire cultural and social order, a plutocracy — that is, a system of rule by and for the rich — for the most part.

“Most universities and colleges, publishing houses, mass circulation magazines, newspapers, television and radio stations, professional sports teams, foundations, churches, private museums, charity organizations, and hospitals are organized as corporations, ruled by boards of trustees (or directors or regents) composed overwhelmingly of affluent businesspeople. These boards exercise final judgement over all institutional matters.”

— Michael Parenti
Chapter 3: “The Plutocratic Culture”


  1. Partisan Politics

  2. Wealth and Want in the United States

  3. The Plutocratic Culture: Institutions and Ideologies

  4. A Constitution for the Few

  5. The Rise of the Corporate State

  6. Politics: Who Gets What?

  7. Health, Environment, and Human Services: Sacrificial Lambs

  8. Unequal before the Law

  9. Political Repression and National Insecurity

  10. The Mass Media: For the Many, by the Few

  11. The Greatest Show on Earth: Elections, Parties and Voters

  12. Who Governs? Leaders, Lobbyists or Labor?

  13. Congress: The Pocketing of Power

  14. The President: Guardian of the System

  15. The Political Economy of Bureaucracy

  16. The Supremely Political Court

  17. Democracy for the Few

About the Author

Michael Parenti Michael Parenti received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 1962. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, in the United States and abroad. His writings have been translated into Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Turkish, Polish, German, Bangla, and Dutch.

He is the author of fourteen books (see below). His articles have appeared in CovertAction Quarterly; Monthly Review; Prevailing Winds; The Humanist; New Political Science; Nature, Society and Thought; The Nation; Z Magazine; Dollars and Sense and numerous other publications.

He appears on radio and television talk shows to discuss current issues and ideas from his published works. Dr. Parenti’s talks and commentaries are played on radio stations to enthusiastic audiences in the U.S., Canada and abroad.

He lectures on college campuses and before a wide range of audiences across the country. His books are enjoyed by both lay readers and scholars, and have been used extensively in college courses.

Among the many topics he treats are:

See also:

Articles & Selections from Published Works of Dr. Parenti http://www.michaelparenti.org/articles.html

A brief, unauthorized history of politically motivated faculty firings at the University of Vermont since 1972

Professor Will Miller’s Introduction for Dr. Michael Parenti before an overflow audience on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of his firing by the UVM Trustees.

Books by Michael Parenti


“America’s foremost progressive writer and speaker, Parenti is illuminating, penetrating, and never afraid of the truth.”

— James Petras
SUNY professor and noted author

“Radical in the true sense of the word, [Parenti] digs at the roots which...sustain our public consciousness.”

Los Angeles Times Book Review

Related sites

Corporate Watch

“Corporate Watch provides news, analysis, research tools and action resources to respond to corporate activity around the globe. We also talk with people who are directly affected by corporate abuses as well as with others fighting for corporate accountability, human rights, social and environmental justice. As part of the independent media, Corporate Watch is free of corporate sponsorship.”

Reclaim Democracy!

“Imagine democracy with an actively participating public. Imagine progress defined as improved quality of life for all people and families. Reclaim Democracy! aims to make these goals reality. We strive to restore democracy to improve our lives today, and for our children’s future. We are a non-partisan grassroots organization and welcome all who share our goal of regaining democratic authority over corporations.”

Related pages

Solutions: American Revolution 2 and a Humane Future of International Socialist Democracy

Thomas Jefferson Calling: The Time for Revolution is NOW
by John Kaminski

Civil Disobedience and Tax Resistance

The two-headed, two-faced American plutocracy

Our Hidden History: Corporations in America

The Corporate Domination of American Culture and Politics

Revealing Quotes 2: Corporate Capitalist Plutocracy

The Plutocratic Presidency

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