Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy

Elaine Tyler May

Basic Books, 2017

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

An award-winning historian untangles the roots of America's culture of fear, and argues that it imperils our democracy

For the last sixty years, fear has seeped into every area of American life: Americans own more guns than citizens of any other country, sequester themselves in gated communities, and retreat from public spaces. And yet, crime rates have plummeted, making life in America safer than ever. Why, then, are Americans so afraid-and where does this fear lead to?

In this remarkable work of social history, Elaine Tyler May demonstrates how our obsession with security has made citizens fear each other and distrust the government, making America less safe and less democratic. Fortress America charts the rise of a muscular national culture, undercutting the common good. Instead of a thriving democracy of engaged citizens, we have become a paranoid, bunkered, militarized, and divided vigilante nation.

“Challenging and provocative, Fortress America will stir stimulating debate in the classroom and in the living room about the state of America in the post-World War II world.”
William Chafe, Alice Mary Baldwin Professor, emeritus, Duke University; former president, Organization of American Historians