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During America's Progressive Era at the beginning of the twentieth century, democracy was more alive than it is today. Social activists and intellectuals of that era formed institutions where citizens educated themselves about pressing issues and public matters. While these efforts at democratic participation have largely been forgotten, their rediscovery may represent our best hope for resolving the current crisis of democracy in the United States.
Mattson explores the work of early activists like Charles Zueblin, who tried to advance adult education at the University of Chicago, and Frederic Howe, whose People's Institute sparked the nationwide forum movement. He then turns to the social centers movement, which began in Rochester, New York, in 1907 with the opening of public schools to adults in the evening as centers for debate over current issues. Mattson tells how this simple program grew into a national phenomenon and cites its achievements and political ideals, and he analyzes the political thought of activists within the movement—notably Mary Parker Follett and Edward Ward—to show that these intellectuals had a profound understanding of what was needed to create vigorous democratic practices.
Creating a Democratic Public challenges us to reconsider how we think about democracy by bringing us into critical dialogue with the past and exploring the work of yesterday's activists. Combining historical analysis, political theory, and social criticism, Mattson analyzes experiments in grassroots democracy from the Progressive Era and explores how we might foster more public involvement in political deliberation today.
|Introduction: Creating a Democratic Public||1|
|1||Searching for a Public: From Beautifying Urban Space to Educating Citizens - The Work of Charles Zueblin||14|
|2||From Tent Meetings to the Forum Movement: Frederic Howe and the Democratic Public||31|
|3||"Buttressing the Foundations of Democracy": The Social Centers Movement||48|
|4||Envisioning Democracy: Social Centers and Political Thought||68|
|5||Thinking Democratically: The Political Thought of Mary Parker Follett||87|
|6||The Waning of the Democratic Public: World War I, Social Centers, and America||105|
|Conclusion: The Future of American Democracy||129|