We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For
The Promise of Civic Renewal in America
America's most serious social problems require citizen action. Traditional civic organizations have shrunk and weakened; the government ignores and sometimes frustrates constructive civic engagement. But Americans have been experimenting with new forms of active citizenship, mostly at the grassroots level. Their experiments are deliberative, convening diverse citizens to discuss goals and strategies without ideological constraints. They are collaborative, involving actual work that builds and sustains public institutions and creates public goods. And by talking and working together, these citizens build civic relationships, which are marked by virtues such as loyalty, respect, and hope.
Peter Levine is a philosopher who has been engaged with such civic renewal efforts for twenty years as a theorist, an empirical researcher and evaluator, and a participant. In this book, he offers an original theory of civic engagement, informed by political philosophy and practical experiments. He critically examines public policies that have discounted citizenship and corrupted the relationship between citizens and the state. He assembles evidence that recent efforts to renew citizenship have engaged at least one million Americans and have made tangible improvements in communities and institutions. He ends with a strategy to turn the scattered efforts at civic engagement into a broad movement for civic renewal that will tackle America's most serious social problems.
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