Regular price: $31.50

Free with 30-day trial
Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month
Select or Add a new payment method

Buy Now with 1 Credit

By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Buy Now for $31.50

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

An explosive exposé of the right's relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, and change the Constitution.
Behind today's headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect - the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan - and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.
In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last-gasp attempt to preserve the white elite's power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.
Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were only too eager to support Buchanan's work in teaching others how to divide America into "makers" and "takers". And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission to rewrite the social contract of the modern world, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multiarmed machine to carry out Buchanan's strategy.
Without Buchanan's ideas and Koch's money, the libertarian right would not have succeeded in its stealth takeover of the Republican Party as a delivery mechanism. Now, with Mike Pence as vice president, the cause has a longtime loyalist in the White House, not to mention a phalanx of Republicans in the House, the Senate, a majority of state governments, and the courts, all carrying out the plan. That plan includes harsher laws to undermine unions, privatizing everything from schools to health care and Social Security, and keeping as many of us as possible from voting. Based on 10 years of unique research, Democracy in Chains tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok. This revelatory work of scholarship is also a call to arms to protect the achievements of 20th-century American self-government.
©2017 Nancy MacLean (P)2017 Penguin Audio
Show More Show Less

Critic Reviews

"Perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government." (Booklist)
Show More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By E. J. Fronczek on 08-05-17

Great companion to Dark Money

This book is a great companion to Jane Mayer's Dark Money. It looks at the Libertarian movement, its roots and contributions on economist James Buchanan and Charles Koch. Well researched, using Buchanan's personal documents. The performance is excellent, easy to listen to.

Read More Hide me

7 of 9 people found this review helpful


By Daniel on 07-29-17

Do not expect a serious and unbiased historical account

People who want to believe that behind all of the world's problems there is always a secret group of evil men pulling strings of a master strategy, will love this book. MacLean's story is indeed entertaining, but it is not the serious historical work I was expecting. Rather, it is what Michael Munger called 'speculative historical fiction'. She clearly cherry picks bits and pieces and tries to knit together an outrageous story with easy-to-despise villains. The worst is that, in order to construct these nefarious movie characters, MacLean horribly manipulates their quotes, twisting the original meanings entirely. This is an intellectually dishonest tactic, as well as an insult to the readers and obviously to those that she misrepresent and demonize.

What bothered me the most is that MacLean usually does not grapple with the complicated philosophical challenges that cross through this story. Specially the perennial issue of balancing the will of majorities vs the rights of minorities in a democracy. Rather, she chooses to skip over any argument, and simply appeal to the currently widespread contempt for the rich, triggering an intuitive (lazy) judgement by the readers.

After listening to the book I read a review by Mike Munger, which not only delves into these points much more eloquently, but also provides a useful account of Public Choice theory. I would recommend it for anyone interested in this topic: www.independent.org/issues/article.asp?id=9115

Read More Hide me

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

See all Reviews