Robert HortwitzRobert Horwitz



Ph.D. in Sociology, Brandeis University (1982)


I have been interested in democracy, the state, communication, and political reform.

My first book, The Irony of Regulatory Reform: The Deregulation of American Telecommunications (Oxford 1989), examined these themes by studying the rise of regulatory agencies in American history, and by taking a detailed look at how the Federal Communications Commission regulated broadcast and telephone industries over a 60 year period. The ultimate aim of the book was to understand how the deregulation of US communications came about in the 1980s. The "ironies" referred to in the book's title point to the complexity of the process of regulatory reform and the paradoxes of its political outcomes. For example, while conservative anti-regulation rhetoric was aimed at the so-called social regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in practice it was the economic regulatory agencies such as the Interstate Commerce Commission and FCC that deregulated, often with vehement opposition from the industries they regulated. Yet these were the very agencies that most observers claimed had been captured by the industries they regulated. And liberals, attacking the economic regulatory agencies as captured and corrupt, uncharacteristically supported deregulation as a way to crack open what they perceived as sets of closed cartels. A synopsis of the argument can be found in a talk I gave in 1998 called "Deregulation as a Political Process."

Irony of Regulatory Reform

My second book, Communication and Democratic Reform in South Africa (Cambridge 2001), looks at the transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa through the lens of the reform of the communications sector. The book examines the transformation of South African broadcasting, telecommunications, the print press, and state information service from apartheid institutions into democratic institutions accountable to the new democratic public. The actual reforms more or less conform to accepted contemporary international models. What was innovative in South Africa was the reform process. In many, if not most, countries, communication policy reform has been pushed by political and economic elites, whose ability to bring about policy transformation derives largely from the insulation of "reform" from normal political decision-making channels and distributive claims. In marked contrast, communications policy reform in South Africa was conducted within a democratizing context and was itself a democratic process of a unique, participatory kind. The reform processes entailed a transparent and consultative form of stakeholder politics, which derived from the participatory, grassroots politics of the United Democratic Front period of the 1980s. In so doing, the South African communications policy reform processes constructed a genuine public sphere in which all relevant parties had access and the ability to participate in ongoing discussions and negotiations in substantive, rather than merely symbolic ways. These were instances of negotiations among civil society stakeholders and between civil society and the state over the shape of a new political economy, where consensus building would have normative force for the participants. The inevitable tension between participatory and electoral politics was, in these instances, generally productive in creating viable and legitimate policy reforms in a kind of negotiated liberalization of economic institutions. Preface and table of contents and first 10 pages of the first chapter

South Africa

My third book is America’s Right: Anti-establishment Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party (Polity 2013). It examines the rise of the particular form of American conservatism that has captured the Republican Party and seized the political agenda in the form of the Tea Party movement. Published three years before the victory of Donald Trump, America’s Right anticipates Trumpism and explains its roots. Conservatism has been the most important political doctrine in the United States for nearly four decades. It has dominated the intellectual debate and largely set the policy agenda, even during years of Democratic electoral control. But this is a particular kind of conservatism, one focused not just on familiar topics of conservative concern as government spending and taxes and personal morality, but one anxious and angry about the purported homosexual agenda, the hoax of climate change, the rule by experts and elites, Barack Obama’s secret Muslim identity. I call this anti-establishment conservatism, whose origin can be found in the faction of the right wing that battled both Democrats and moderate Republicans in the post-World War II period. Reengaging the work of the historian Richard Hofstadter and his concept of the paranoid style in American politics, America’s Right examines the nature of anti-establishment conservatism, traces its development from the 1950s to the present, and explains its political ascendance. 

The introductory chapter is available for reading.

Anti-establishment conservatism

An online interview-conversation keyed to the May 2013 South Carolina special congressional race provides a window onto some of the central themes of the book.

I also have an abiding interest in American free speech and communication law, and have published a number of essays in this area, several of which are listed below.

Published Articles

  • “Politics as Victimhood; Victimhood as Politics.” Journal of Policy History, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Summer 2018).
  • “The Politics of Pity.” [Response to Wolfgang Streeck, “Trump and the Trumpists”]. Inference: International Review of Science, Vol. 3, No. 2 (August 2017).
  • “The Revival of Reinhold Niebuhr: A Foreign Policy Fable.” Public Culture, Vol. 28, No. 1 (January 2016), pp. 113-138. 
  • "A New Alliance Between Religion and Labor? The Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice and the GCIU – San Diego Union-Tribune Contract Negotiation," Social Movement Studies, Vol. 6, No. 3 (2007), pp. 261-297.
  • "Another Instance Where Privatization Trumped Liberalization: The Politics of Telecommunications Reform in South Africa –' A Ten Year Retrospective." with Willie Currie, Telecommunications Policy, Vol. 31 (2007), pp. 445-462.
  • "U.S. Media Policy, Then and Now.” In David Skinner, James Compton & Mike Gasher, eds., Converging Media/Diverging Politics (Lexington Books, 2005), pp. 25-50.
  • "On Media Concentration and the Diversity Question,” The Information Society, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Summer 2005), pp. 181-204. Published also in Philip Napoli, ed., Media Diversity and Localism: Meaning and Metrics (Erlbaum, 2007), pp. 9-56.
  • "Communications Regulation in Protecting the Public Interest.” In Geneva Overholser and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, eds. The Institutions of American Democracy: The Press Volume (Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 284-302.
  • "In the Trenches: Teaching Worker Justice in Religious Institutions,” Religious Perspectives on Work Project, National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice (May 2005).
  • "Truth Commissions, Nation-Building, and International Human Rights: The South African Experience and Reflections on the Politics of Human Rights Post 9/11,” In Colin Sparks & Andrew Calabrese, eds., Toward a Political Economy of Culture: Capitalism and Communication in the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), pp. 111-130.
  • "'Negotiated Liberalization': The Politics of Communication Sector Reform in South Africa." In Nancy Morris & Silvio Waisbord, eds. Media and Globalization: Why The State Matters (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), pp. 37- 55.
  • "La desregulacion como proceso politico,” Gestion y Politica Publica, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2000). Published in English as “"Deregulation as a Political Process,” in Connect-World Latin America (Third Quarter 1998), pp. 34-38.
  • "South African Telecommunications: History and Prospects," in Eli M. Noam (ed.), Telecommunications in Africa (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 205-248.
  • "Telecommunications Reform in Postapartheid South Africa," in Andrew Calabrese & Jean-Claude Burgelman (eds.), Communication, Citizenship, and Social Policy: Rethinking the Limits of the Welfare State (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), pp. 191-208.
  • "Participatory Politics and Sectoral Reform: Telecommunications Policy in the New South Africa," Jeffrey K. MacKie-Mason & David Waterman (eds.), Telephony, The Internet, and the Media: Selected Papers from the 1997 Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (Lawrence Erlbaum, 1998), pp. 251-268.
  • Broadcast Reform Revisited: Reverend Everett C. Parker and the "Standing" Case (Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ v. Federal Communications Commission, The Communication Review, Vol. 3, No. 2 (1997), pp. 311-348.
  • "Telecommunications Policy in the New South Africa: Participatory Politics and Sectoral Reform", Media, Culture and Society, Vol. 19, No. 4 (October 1997), pp. 503-533.--Published also in Communicatio (a South African scholarly journal, published through the University of South Africa), Vol. 23, No. 2 (1997), pp. 63-78.
  • "Telecommunications and Their Deregulation” and “"Theories of Regulation"” in Peter Golding & Graham Murdock, eds., The Political Economy of the Media, Vol. II (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 1997), pp. 365-418.
  • "South African Telecommunications",” in Ilka Lewington (ed.), Utility Regulation 1997: Economic Regulation of Utilities and Network Industries Worldwide, (London: Privatisation International and Centre for the Study of Regulated Industries, 1997), pp. 424-428.
  • with Robin M. Braun and David Kaplan, “Reform of the South African Telecommunications Sector - Some Ramifications Thereof,” Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineering (IEEE) Africon '96 Conference Proceedings, 5 pages.
  • "Telecommunications Policy in South Africa in the Light of International Experience",” University of Cape Town Science & Technology Policy Research Centre Working Papers, No. 2 (February 1996), 31 pages.
  • "The Uneasy Relation Between Political and Economic Reform in South Africa: The Case of Telecommunications,” African Affairs, Vol. 93 (1994), pp. 361-385.
  • "Apartheid, Its Demise and Electricity: The Development of the Institutional and Regulatory Structure of the South African Electricity Industry,” University of Cape Town Energy for Development Research Centre Working Papers, No. 14c (1994), 44 pages.
  • "Judicial Review of Regulatory Decisions: The Changing Criteria",” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 109, No. 1 (Spring 1994), pp. 133-169.
  • "Begging the Question: Consistency and ‘Common Sense" in the First Amendment Jurisprudence of Advertising and Begging,” Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 13 (1993), pp. 213-247.
  • "The Politics of Telecommunication Reform in South Africa",” Telecommunications Policy, Vol. 16, No. 4 (May/June 1992), pp. 291-306.
  • "South Africa and Telecommunications in Transition",” Proceedings of the Fifth National Telecommunications Conference in South Africa, (November 1991), pp. 1-28.
  • "Commercialisation of Telecommunication Services,” Computing and Communications in Practice, Alan Dickenson, ed. (selected and edited papers from the international conference held at the Southern Africa Computer and Communications Expo '91, Harare, Zimbabwe), (Cambridgeshire: AITEC Exhibitions & Conferences, 1991), pp. 9-11.
  • "The First Amendment Meets Some New Technologies: Broadcasting, Common Carriers, and Free Speech in the 1990s," Theory and Society, Vol. 20 (1991), pp. 21-72.
  • "Understanding Deregulation,” Theory and Society, Special double issue entitled "The Structures of Capital," Vol. 15 Nos. 1 & 2 (1986), pp. 139-174.
  • "For Whom the Bell Tolls: Causes and Consequences of the AT&T Divestiture,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Vol. 3, No. 2 (June 1986), pp. 119-154.--Published also in Robert K. Avery & David Eason, eds., Critical Perspectives on Media and Society, Guilford Publications (1991).
  • "The Regulation/Deregulation of American Broadcasting",” The Quarterly Review of Film Studies, Special Issue on the Economic and Political Structure of American Television, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Summer 1983), pp. 25-38.
  • “From Reproduction to Class Struggle--Manuel Castells' The Urban Question: A Marxist Approach,” Socialist Review, Vol. 9, No. 2 (March/April 1979), pp. 131-142.
  • with David Barry and Elizabeth Brydolf, “Why Didn't Resistance Continue in the Armories? [an analysis of the 1978 Seabrook anti-nuclear protest],” Win Magazine (June 16 & 23, 1977), pp. 26-28.