Category Archives: civic theory

Arendt, freedom, Trump

This passage, from a previously unpublished 1966 or 1967 lecture by Hannah Arendt, is a rich text for the week of Independence Day while Donald Trump is president: The first elements of a political philosophy corresponding to this notion of … Continue reading

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so, you want to strengthen democracy?

This year’s Frontiers of Democracy conference explored a set of analytical tools that may be useful if you want to improve or defend democracy: You should decide where you stand on the current crisis in American democracy (which is mirrored in many … Continue reading

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how to get a deliberative democracy

The annual Frontiers of Democracy conference ended on Saturday–and my thanks to the 150 dedicated and skillful participants. It’s billed as a gathering of people committed to various forms of democratic reform, but it tends to draw colleagues from one … Continue reading

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a sketch of a theory of social movements

Any social movement needs resources, such as money, existing organizations with members, physical spaces, tools for communication, people with special skills, allies within existing power structures, etc. These resources are somewhat flexible; for instance, you can do without money if … Continue reading

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Hannah Arendt and Lin-Manuel Miranda

Hannah Arendt’s interpretation of the American Revolution may not be accurate history, but it is valuable political theory, and it finds an eloquent echo in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. Arendt argues that the American revolutionaries began by seeking liberty, which they … Continue reading

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saving Habermas from the deliberative democrats

“God save me from the Marxists”–attributed to Karl Marx Jürgen Habermas is often presented as the master theorist of deliberative democracy, the author who believes that a society should approximate an “ideal speech situation” in which “the only force is the … Continue reading

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starting the 9th annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies

The 9th annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies begins this morning and continues for two weeks, with 6½ hours of seminar discussion daily.  This year’s participants hold degrees in religion and literature, social policy, social welfare, international relations, political theory, philosophy, management, education, public … Continue reading

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don’t let the behavioral revolution make you fatalistic

Beginning in the late 1960s, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman shook the prevailing assumption that human beings can plan and make decisions rationally. Their experiments demonstrated that we use “simplifying heuristics rather than extensive algorithmic processing” to make decisions. We err in predictable … Continue reading

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civic life and health research

This is an online lecture (video, slides, and discussion questions) entitled “Civic Life and Health Research.” It’s offered by, and thanks to, the Tufts Clinical Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI), where I hold a research professorship. Dr. Thomas Concannon introduces the CTSI and … Continue reading

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social movements depend on social capital (but you can make your own)

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the glorious chapter in the American Civil Rights Movement that began when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the segregated bus. This story is usually misrepresented in ways that hide Parks’ planning, … Continue reading

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