Holding Together

The Hijacking of Rights in America and How to Reclaim Them for Everyone

A bold new assessment of the multipronged attack on rights in the United States, and how to push back

“The government has a responsibility to protect rights and the people have a responsibility to respect them . . . a majority of Americans believe that neither the government nor the people are exercising their responsibilities to protect and respect rights.” —from Holding Together

An overwhelming majority of Americans agree that rights are essential to their freedom, and that rights today are severely threatened. The promise of rights has been reimagined at pivotal moments in American history—from the American Revolution to the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. Can today become another time of transformation?

Holding Together is about the promise of rights as a source of American identity, the struggle to realize rights by countless Americans to whom the promise has been denied or not fulfilled, the hijacking of rights by politicians who seek power by dividing and polarizing, and the way forward in which rights can bring Americans together instead of tearing them apart.

Drawing on a series of town hall meetings with representative groups of citizens across the country discussing their concerns over rights, new national opinion polls from all demographic groups and political perspectives conducted in 2020 and 2021, and extensive research, Holding Together is a road map for an American rights revival.

John Shattuck, Sushma Raman, and Mathias Risse present a comprehensive account of the current state of rights in the United States—and concrete recommendations to policy makers and citizens on how to reclaim them.


“A spirited defense of the political and civil rights that Americans enjoy—and that are constantly being chipped away.”
Kirkus Reviews
“In an era of corrosive mistrust, this fact-filled guidebook is a vital resource for every citizen to help rescue and uphold free self-government by ‘We the People.’”
—Taylor Branch, author of Parting the Waters
“An immensely valuable and engaging book. . . . No matter what your views are, you will come away much wiser about the challenges facing all who seek to build a good society.”
—E.J. Dionne Jr., author of Our Divided Political Heart and co-author of 100% Democracy
“A powerful account of today’s rights crisis in America . . . this book helps us imagine a future of rights for everyone.”
—Anthony D. Romero, executive director, ACLU
“A lucid primer on many of today’s most pressing political and social issues.”
Publishers Weekly
“There is no better book—a blueprint really—to guide us into and past the potentially fractious decade ahead.”
—Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land, a finalist for the National Book Award
“This is an indispensable study, more timely than ever, carefully documenting threats to our rights and eloquent in arguing for measures needed to come to their defense.”
—Sissela Bok, philosopher, ethicist, and author of Lying
“Everyone looking for a path to safeguard the future of our democracy should read this book.”
—Archon Fung, co-founder of the Transparency Policy Project and professor of citizenship and democracy at Harvard University
“The heart of Holding Together is resoundingly hopeful. Shattuck, Raman, and Risse provide a timely call to action for everyone who is concerned with closing the gap between our democratic ideals and what is real.”
—Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

News and Reviews

Book TV

Watch a discussion of Holding Together on C-SPAN's Book TV.

Boston Globe

Read an op-ed by Holding Together co-author John Shattuck in the Boston Globe about the best way to defend democracy.

Kirkus Reviews

Read a review of Holding Together in Kirkus Reviews.

Goodreads Reviews