Sheldon Wolin

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Sheldon S. Wolin (August 4, 1922October 21, 2015) was an American political philosopher. He was professor emeritus at Princeton University and a writer on contemporary politics.


  • Weber... formulated the idea of methodology to serve, not simply as a guide to investigation but as a moral practice and a mode of political action.
    • Sheldon Wolin, “Max Weber: Legitimation, Method, and the Politics of Theory,” Political Theory (1981)
  • While the versions of totalitarianism represented by Nazism and Fascism consolidated power by suppressing liberal political practices that had sunk only shallow cultural roots, Superpower represents a drive towards totality that draws from the setting where liberalism and democracy have been established for more than two centuries. It is Nazism turned upside-down, “inverted totalitarianism.” While it is a system that aspires to totality, it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a “master race” (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the “ideal.”
    • Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought (1960, revised 2004), p. 591
  • Inverted totalitarianism reverses things. It is all politics all of the time but a politics largely untempered by the political. Party squabbles are occasionally on public display, and there is a frantic and continuous politics among factions of the party, interest groups, competing corporate powers, and rival media concerns. And there is, of course, the culminating moment of national elections when the attention of the nation is required to make a choice of personalities rather than a choice between alternatives. What is absent is the political, the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests rabidly seeking governmental favors and overwhelming the practices of representative government and public administration by a sea of cash.
    • Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008), p. 66

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