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American Democracy: From Tocqueville to Town Halls to Twitter

ISBN: 978-0-7456-6233-6
248 pages
March 2014, Polity
American Democracy: From Tocqueville to Town Halls to Twitter (0745662331) cover image

Description

In this groundbreaking book, sociologist Andrew Perrin shows that rules and institutions, while important, are not the core of democracy. Instead, as Alexis de Tocqueville showed in the early years of the American republic, democracy is first and foremost a matter of culture: the shared ideas, practices, and technologies that help individuals combine into publics and achieve representation. Reinterpreting democracy as culture reveals the ways the media, public opinion polling, and changing technologies shape democracy and citizenship. As Perrin shows, the founders of the United States produced a social, cultural, and legal environment fertile for democratic development and in the two centuries since, citizens and publics use that environment and shared culture to re-imagine and extend that democracy.

American Democracy provides a fresh, innovative approach to democracy that will change the way readers understand their roles as citizens and participants. Never will you enter a voting booth or answer a poll again without realizing what a truly social act it is. This will be necessary reading for scholars, students, and the public seeking to understand the challenges and opportunities for democratic citizenship from Toqueville to town halls to Twitter.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii

Introduction 1

1 History and Theory of Democracy 12

2 Voting, Civil Society, and Citizenship 48

3 Deliberation, Representation, and Legislation 81

4 Public Opinion, Policy Responsiveness, and Feedback 114

5 Media, Communications, and Political Knowledge 140

6 Democratic Culture and Practice in Postmodern

America 163

Notes 188

References 191

Index 219

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Author Information

Andrew J. Perrin is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
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Reviews

''Written with uncommon imagination, this beautifully-realized book challenges too narrow a focus on formal institutions and the electoral process. Written in the spirit of Tocqueville as a sociology of democracy and of Habermas as a probe of the public realm, it deepens our understanding of the foundations of democratic culture, including civic values and the patterns of communication, association, and action that give shape and meaning to democratic citizenship.''
Ira Katznelson, Columbia University

''In this bold reconceptualization of American democracy, Andrew Perrin introduces what he correctly calls a new sociology of publics. Perrin draws our attention to the dynamism inherent in American democracy by showing how democracy is learned and practiced as citizens interact with institutions. An important contribution that will inspire fresh thinking about what sustains democratic practice in the United States and how it might be re-energized.''
Margaret Weir, University of California Berkeley

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