Democracy in Chains

Jack Rakove Reviews Democracy in Chains

A noted historian looks at Nancy Maclean's work (and cites the VC).

|The Volokh Conspiracy |


Noted historian Jack Rakove of Stanford University reviews Nancy Maclean's Democracy in Chains in Critical Inquiry, and the Volokh Conspiracy makes a cameo appearance.

Here's a taste of the review:

Once MacLean forges the Koch-Buchanan connection, Democracy in Chainsbegins to read more like Ramparts-style journalism than academic history. . . .

MacLean's journalistic turn gives her book an admirable polemical vigor that makes it fun to read—especially for anyone who has never read Ayn Rand and is free from libertarian leanings or radical-right credentials. But as a serious intellectual history of public choice ideas or (more to the point) of Buchanan's own substantial oeuvre, Democracy in Chainsis disappointing. . . .

Nancy MacLean has been taking numerous hits ever since her book appeared in June. (Everyone knows how to google these responses, but one finder's clue would be to use "Volokh Conspiracy Nancy MacLean.") Serious charges about her misuse of sources have already been made, which I will not discuss because they lie beyond my scholarly competence and knowledge. At some point there should be a thorough scholarly review of these points, and one suspects that MacLean will have to make a more concerted effort to justify her argument than she has yet provided. Any reader of Democracy in Chains must keep these concerns in mind. Yet her questions remain important and well worth pondering. . . .

As longtime VC readers know, there is a standing offer to post any response Maclean cares to offer to her critics. I made this offer well over a year ago (when this blog was still hosted at the Washington Post) and it still stands. To date, neither Maclean nor her publisher has offered any reply (and I made efforts to contact both directly), nor have etierh offered a substnative response elsewhere. Perhaps that failure to address serious charges of false and misleading claims and misuse of sources is itself worth pondering.