Ambition in AmericaPolitical Power and the Collapse of Citizenship

Ambition in AmericaPolitical Power and the Collapse of Citizenship

Jeffrey A. Becker

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780813145044

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky


This is a book about the necessity of political ambition for the success of American democracy. Democracies face an enduring problem encouraging, harnessing, and inevitably restraining the passions citizens have to wield political power in a civic forum. This book describes how evolving American political institutions and forms of association struggle to inspire, guide, and constrain the ambition of citizens to rule within American politics. This book sheds light on the way power seeking behavior in America ends up transforming—and often undermining—the ways democracies attempt to hold the socially and politically powerful accountable. Ambition—the desire to rule—while often seen as a threat to the stability of republican self-government, actually plays a vital, though previously underexplored, role in sustaining a healthy polity. This book explores how relationships between the mechanisms of restraint and the ambitions of specific public figures and movements enhance or undermine the possibility of self-government.