The Good Citizen: A History of American CIVIC Life

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9780684827292: The Good Citizen: A History of American CIVIC Life

An epic study of citizenship in America spans three centuries and explores how the United States, having passed through three distinct eras of citizenship, appears to be moving into a fourth one. 15,000 first printing.

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Review:

"What are the characteristics and practices that mark a good citizen in the United States?" asks author Michael Schudson, a professor at the University of California at San Diego. He's not entirely sure--this is not a book of ready conclusions--but he performs a helpful service in describing the evolution of voting as both an idea and practice in American history. During the colonial period, for example, white male property owners (nobody else had the vote) casually reaffirmed a strict social hierarchy. In the 19th century, political parties dominated public life and energized local communities. In the 20th century, the Progressive Era notion of "informed voters" took root and essentially privatized citizenship. Schudson generally likes the way in which American citizenship has evolved, especially toward more openness, but he's decidedly ambivalent about where it might be headed--a regime of rights and entitlements in which the personal is inevitably political. --John J. Miller

From the Back Cover:

America clings to an array of historically derived ideals of citizen participation-eighteenth-century town-hall meetings, nineteenth-century mass parties, early twentieth-century direct democracy-even though it cannot possibly live up to all at once. These are the 'successive coats that laminate our political ideals,' as Schudson puts it; and eash coat is tattered, so that the earlier ones show through. It is reassuring to find Schudson pleading that 'we can gain inspiration from the past, but we cannot import it.' It would be even better if his countrymen read his book.-The Economist

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