Category Archives: civic theory

notes on the metaphysics of Gandhi and King

Gandhi offers a fully developed metaphysics and epistemology–original even though it is grounded in classical Indian thought. For Martin Luther King, Protestant theology provides a core theory of human nature, but King navigates his way through debates in modern Protestantism … Continue reading

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new Civic Studies major at Tufts

Yesterday, the Tufts Faculty of Arts & Sciences approved our proposal for a new major in Civic Studies, the first in the world. It will begin next fall, and I’ll co-teach the new introductory course with my colleagues Erin Kelly … Continue reading

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what does it mean to say democracy is in retreat?

According to Freedom House, “Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—came under attack around … Continue reading

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insights on police reform from Elinor Ostrom and social choice theory

Elinor Ostrom was my favorite scholar. Her research was empirically rigorous and methodologically innovative. After working with Vincent Ostrom on water management, she turned to a series of studies of police. Her findings are pertinent today, when crime has fallen but … Continue reading

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conflict v mistake as a framework for politics

Scott Alexander has an interesting blog post that distinguishes two ways of thinking about politics: “Politics as mistake.” I’d put this one a little differently. The core idea is that institutions have flaws that result from their designs and the … Continue reading

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Why Civil Resistance Works

Here are some working notes on Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press, 2011) This is their central finding: nonviolent campaigns are nearly twice as likely to win–meaning … Continue reading

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how to tell if you’re doing good

If you have the capacity to affect other people, there seem to be three basic ways to decide what to do–and then to assess how much good you’ve done once you’ve acted. You can talk to the people affected. You … Continue reading

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why study social justice?

I just finished teaching a philosophy course in which the primary question was “How should I live?” We spent some time reading and thinking about personal and internal questions, such as what constitutes happiness and truthfulness and whether those are … Continue reading

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Civic Studies video introduction

This is a 16-minute talk in which I offer my own summary of “Civic Studies,” the nascent field that emerged with “The New Civic Politics: Civic Theory and Practice for the Future,” a 2007 manifesto, and has since developed during … Continue reading

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why the deliberative democracy framework doesn’t quite work for me

In some ways, I came of age in the field of deliberative democracy. I had an internship at the Kettering Foundation when I was a college sophomore (when the foundation defined itself more purely in deliberative terms than it does … Continue reading

Posted in civic theory, deliberation, Uncategorized | 4 Comments