A Democracy That Works argues that rather than corporate donations, Republican gerrymandering and media manipulation, the conservative ascendancy reflects the reconstruction of the rules that govern work that has disempowered workers.

Using six historical case studies from the emergence of the New Deal, and its later overtaking by the conservative neoliberal agenda, to today's intersectional social justice movements, Stephen Amberg deploys situated institutional analysis to show how real actors created the rules that empowered liberal democracy for 50 years and then how Democrats and Republicans undermined democracy by changing those rules, thereby organizing working-class people out of American politics. He draws on multidisciplinary studies to argue that when employees are organized to participate at work, they are also organized to participate in politics to press for accountable government. In doing so, the book opens up analytical space to understand the unprecedented threat to liberal democracy in the U.S.

A Democracy That Works is a fresh account of the crisis of democracy that illuminates how historical choices about the role of workers in the polity shaped America's liberal democracy during the 20th century. It will appeal to scholars of American politics and American political development, labor and social movements, democracy and comparative politics.

chapter 1|72 pages


America's Puzzling Semi-Democracy

chapter 2|42 pages

Rules for Representation and Participation at Work

How New York's Multi-Party Politics Created Collaborative Workplaces and Influenced the New Deal

chapter 3|58 pages

Extending the New Deal to the South

The Struggle for Liberal Democracy in Texas

chapter 5|54 pages

Liberals Labors Lost

How New Dealers Lost Control of Their Narrative of Liberal Democracy

chapter 7|59 pages

Beyond Liberal Oligarchy

The New Working-Class and Democratic Politics