Category Archives: civic theory

no justice, no peace? (on the relationship between these concepts)

As a political philosopher, I’m trained to think about justice versus injustice. Both terms are controversial. It would be hard to find two people (even two who might be labeled “social justice warriors”) who define “justice” exactly alike. We each … Continue reading

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what is polarization and when is it bad?

We might say that people are polarized when … They hold opposing positions on issues that matter to them. They hold contrasting core values that drive their opinions about issues. They identify strongly and stably with parties or ideological groups … Continue reading

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the kind of sacrifice required in nonviolence

We see nonviolent social movements forming and acting all around us right now: Charlottesville, Boston, Phoenix. There’s also a lively debate about whether nonviolence is the best response to threats like the alt-right, and if so, why. (Is nonviolence a … Continue reading

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a civic studies perspective on European citizenship

In “A Civic Studies perspective on European citizens: in search for potential in the conflict surrounding TTIP” (European Politics and Society, Aug 2017, pp. 1-27), Nora Schröder provides a learned and insightful overview of Civic Studies–consistent with the core ideals of … Continue reading

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This passage, from a previously unpublished 1966 or 1967 lecture by Hannah Arendt, is a rich text for the week of Independence Day while Donald Trump is president: The first elements of a political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