The Anxieties of Democracy program is collaborating with Cambridge University Press to publish a series of edited volumes. The SSRC Anxieties of Democracy series features work from scholars involved in the program’s working groups and partnerships, and covers topics ranging from the performance of American governing institutions to the politics of economic insecurity.

At a fraught moment for democracies worldwide, the Anxieties of Democracy series brings together renowned scholars to probe the sources of current apprehensions about democracy and to explore how democratic regimes might thrive.

Three volumes in the series have been published so far: Can America Govern Itself? (May 2019),  Social Media and Democracy (September 2020), and The Disinformation Age (October 2020).  

The series is edited by John A. FerejohnIra Katznelson, and Deborah J. Yashar.

Published Volumes

The Disinformation Age: Politics, Technology, and Disruptive Communication in the United States (ed. Bennett and Livingston, 2020)  

The intentional spread of falsehoods—and attendant attacks on minorities, press freedoms, and the rule of law—challenge the basic norms and values upon which institutional legitimacy and political stability depend. How did we get here? The Disinformation Age assembles a remarkable group of historians, political scientists, and communication scholars to examine the historical and political origins of the post-fact information era, focusing on the United States but with lessons for other democracies. Bennett and Livingston frame the book by examining decades-long efforts by political and business interests to undermine authoritative institutions, including parties, elections, public agencies, science, independent journalism, and civil society groups. The other distinguished scholars explore the historical origins and workings of disinformation, along with policy challenges and the role of the legacy press in improving public communication.

The Disinformation Age emerged out of an SSRC Media & Democracy program workshop titled “A Modern History of The Disinformation Age: Communication, Technology, and Democracy in Transition,” held in 2018 at George Washington University with the support of the Knight Foundation.

The entire volume is available open access on Cambridge Core with the support of the  Media & Democracy program.


W. Lance Bennett 
University of Washington

Steven Livingston 
George Washington University

Social Media and Democracy: State of the Field, Prospects for Reform  (ed. Persily and Tucker, 2020)

Over the last five years, widespread concern about the effects of social media on democracy has led to an explosion in research from different disciplines and corners of academia. This book is the first of its kind to take stock of this emerging multidisciplinary field by synthesizing what we know, identifying what we do not know and obstacles to future research, and charting a course for the future inquiry. Chapters by leading scholars cover major topics—from disinformation to hate speech to political advertising—and situate recent developments in the context of key policy questions. In addition, the book canvasses existing reform proposals in order to address widely perceived threats that social media poses to democracy.

Social Media and Democracy emerged out of a Media & Democracy program conference of the same name, held at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society in collaboration with the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

The entire volume is available open access on Cambridge Core, thanks to the support of the SSRC’s Media & Democracy program.


Nathaniel Persily
Stanford University

Joshua A. Tucker
New York University

Can America Govern Itself? (ed. Lee & McCarty, 2019)

Can America Govern Itself? brings together a diverse group of distinguished scholars to analyze how rising party polarization and economic inequality have affected the performance of American governing institutions. It is organized around two themes: the changing nature of representation in the United States; and how changes in the political environment have affected the internal processes of institutions, overall government performance, and policy outcomes. The chapters in this volume analyze concerns about power, influence and representation in American politics, the quality of deliberation and political communications, the management and implementation of public policy, and the performance of an eighteenth century constitution in today’s polarized political environment. These renowned scholars provide a deeper and more systematic grasp of what is new, and what is perennial in challenges to democracy at a fraught moment.

Can America Govern Itself? was produced as a result of meetings, conversations, and efforts from the Anxieties of Democracy working group on Institutions.


Frances E. Lee
Professor of Government and Politics, University of Maryland

Nolan McCarty
Susan Dod Brown Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Princeton University

Other Contributors:

Kenneth Benoit (London School of Economics), Brandice Canes-Wrone (Princeton University), Anthony Chen(Northwestern University), James Curry (The University of Utah), Lee Drutman (New America Foundation), Nathan Gibson (Princeton University), Daniel Gillion (University of Pennsylvania), Matthew Grossman (Michigan State University), Peter Hanson (University of Denver), Timothy LaPira (James Madison University), Claire Leavitt (Cornell University), Suzanne Mettler (Cornell University), Kevin Munger (New York University), Gillian Metzger (Columbia University), Sam Rosenfeld (Colgate University), Daniel Schlozman (Johns Hopkins University), David Spence (University of Texas at Austin), and Arthur Spirling (New York University). E