The End of Politics

Corporate Power and the Decline of the Public Sphere

Carl Boggs

September 17, 2001
ISBN 9781572305045
Price: $36.00
310 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
Copyright Date: 2000

Why do so many Americans feel that politics has become irrelevant to their daily lives? Why is there so little public discussion of important social issues, despite unprecedented access to mass media and new communication technologies? This book delves beneath the sound bites and news headlines to explore the ongoing process of depoliticization in the United States. Attuned to the many contemporary trends eroding the public sphere, Carl Boggs illuminates the American retreat to an eerily privatized landscape of shopping malls, gated communities, new-age fads, rural militias, isolated computer terminals, and postmodern intellectual discourse. Yet Boggs maintains hope that current trends can be reversed, issuing an eloquent call for revitalizing politics, culture, and civic society. The paperback concludes with a new postscript on the movement against corporate globalization and the tumultuous presidential election of 2000.

“Presents a comprehensive analysis of the decline of American politics at a time when, as Boggs argues, politics is needed more than ever.”

Political Science Quarterly

“Boggs offers a fascinating analysis of a multitude of contemporary escapes from the political sphere.”

The Bloomsbury Review

“Besides the fruitful combination of leftist and classical democratic concerns, Bogg's analysis is unique in laying blame for depoliticization not only on the usual suspects, elites that seek to pacify the masses and distract them from political activism, but also on elements of old, new, and postmodern lefts as well....presents a comprehensive analysis of the decline of American politics at a time when, as Boggs argues, politics is needed more than ever.”

Political Science Quarterly

“The book is exhaustive in its treatment of the contemporary substitutes for politics—twelve-step programs, street gangs, militias, survivalists, the O.J. trial, deep ecology, and on and on.”

Express Books

“Boggs offers a fascinating analysis of a multitude of contemporary escapes from the political sphere.”

The Bloomsbury Review

“...a sophisticated, dense study of the relationship between the growth of the corporate liberal state and the decline of politics....Combining insights of Marxism with communitarianism, Boggs argues that it is only through active, public, political activities and the consistent challenge of the established order that Americans and everyone else can address persistent problems such as poverty and environmental degradation. Boggs is to be commended for the passion of his argument; readers, however, should be aware that this is a theoretically rich and complex work that requires careful reading.”


“For some 30 years Carl Boggs has been a perceptive and calm exemplar of radical thinking. In The End of Politics, with his usual clarity and care, he assesses the corrosion of political thought and action that besets American life. He scrutinizes self-help therapies, established political parties, academic postmodernism, right-wing youth groups, and television, as well as the weak and disorganized efforts to reanimate politics. The End of Politics is a vital contribution to a devitalizing phenomenon—the dwindling of political will and practice in the era of corporate rule.”

—Russell Jacoby, UCLA, author of The End of Utopia, The Last Intellectuals and other works.

“This book demonstrates the massive decline in engagement with public issues that has taken place in the U.S. in recent decades, and shows the danger that this poses to democracy. Boggs traces the common thread of anti-politics in a series of contemporary tendencies, from movements of the Right to academic postmodernism. This is a thoughtful, courageous, and important book.”

—Barbara Epstein, University of California, Santa Cruz

“This is a work of great political and intellectual courage. Boggs goes to the root of such seemingly disparate phenomena as the loss of a shared sense of the common good, the explosion of self-help, the dominance of the global economy, the fragmentation of the left, the growth of violent terrorist groups, the drop in voting rates, the virtual abandonment of many inner cities, and the absence of any significant political opposition. And he sketches the starting points for any future project of meaningful social change. At long last a writer of stature has dared to look at contemporary social life as a whole, and from a coherent and still-radical perspective stressing the trend towards depoliticization. There is much to argue over in Boggs's account, but it will draw us back into holistic discussion of the social world and its dominant forces.”

—Ron Aronson, Wayne State University

“This is a strong, highly original volume that goes beyond the usual doomsday approach to this issue. The general theme concerning the depoliticization of American culture is well argued and well supported. The book will serve as a text in upper division courses on political and social theory. I recommend it to colleagues.”

—Norman K. Denzin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Table of Contents


1. The Depoliticized Society

2. Social Crisis and Political Decay

3. Corporate Expansion and Political Decline

4. Rise and Decline of the Public Sphere

5. Antipolitics Left and Right

6. Political Power and Its Discontents

7. The Postmodern Impasse

Conclusion: A Revival of Politics?

Postscript: The Year 2000

Postscript to the Paperback Edition: Economic Globalization and Political Atrophy

About the Author

Carl Boggs is the author of numerous books in the fields of contemporary social and political theory, European politics, and popular movements, including The Two Revolutions: Antonio Gramsci and the Dilemmas of Western Marxism (1984), Social Movements and Political Power (1986), Intellectuals and the Crisis of Modernity (1993), and The Socialist Tradition (1996). He has taught at UCLA, USC, and Washington University in St. Louis. For the past 12 years he has been professor of social sciences at National University in Los Angeles.


General readers; professors and students of political science, sociology, American studies, and U.S. history.