Faculty Book: Sean Wilentz: Join the Party

Written by
Mark F. Bernstein
May 18, 2016

An embrace of tradition as political outsiders are in vogue

We live in an anti-political age, but in his latest book, The Politicians & The Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics, Professor Sean Wilentz contends that it is those who have embraced politics — far more than those who profess to rise above it or disdain it from afar — who have enabled the country to make its greatest social and economic advances.

This is the eighth book for Wilentz, the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History. The Politicians & The Egalitarians is a collection of previously published essays, but they make a common point about the nature of American democracy.

Although Thomas Jefferson insisted in his first inaugural address that “we are all republicans, we are all federalists,” he knew that partisanship was not only a central feature of the American system, but a highly useful one that channeled popular sentiment into opposing forces that could enact it into law. Nevertheless, Wilentz writes, “The American dream of politics without conflict, and of politics without political parties, has a history as old as American politics.” Read more at Princeton Alumni Weekly.