[UCP Books]: America, Compromised

Levi Stahl: levi@uchicago.edu / (773) 702 0289 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


“Lessig lays out a working definition and theory of corruption that is at once simple and comprehensive, a devastating argument that America is racing for the cliff’s edge of structural, possibly irreversible tyranny.”

Cory Doctorow



America, Compromised




Publication date: November 20, 2018  
International publication date: November 20, 2018 $24.00/£18.00



As we face the aftermath of yet another election that was full of rancor and bad faith, deep polarization and seemingly irreconcilable differences, one thing stands out as undeniable: Americans off all political persuasions have lost faith in the key institutions of society. And the consequences are dire.


But maybe they’re right to have lost faith. Lawrence Lessig in America, Compromised, mounts a sweeping indictment of contemporary American institutions and lays bare the corruption that besets them. We can all see it—from the selling of Congress to special interests to the corporate capture of the academy. There is something wrong that goes deeper than populism and demagoguery. 


And it's our fault. What Lessig shows, brilliantly and persuasively, is that we can’t blame the problems of contemporary American life on bad people, as our discourse all too often tends to do. Rather, he explains, “We have allowed core institutions of America’s economic, social, and political life to become corrupted. Not by evil souls, but by good souls. Not through crime, but through compromise.” Every one of us, every day, making the modest compromises that seem necessary to keep moving along, is contributing to the rot at the core of American civic life. Through case studies of Congress, finance, the academy, the media, and the law, Lessig shows how institutions are drawn away from higher purposes and toward money, power, quick rewards—the first steps to corruption.


Lessig knows that a charge so broad should not be levied lightly, and that our instinct will be to resist it. So he brings copious, damning detail gleaned from years of research, building a case that is all but incontrovertible: America is on the wrong path. If we don’t acknowledge our own part in that, and act now to change it, we will hand our children a less perfect union than we were given. It will be a long struggle. This book represents the first steps.


Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, an attorney, and an activist. He cofounded Creative Commons in 2001 and is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Republic, Lost: Version 2.0.


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