Downsizing Democracy: How America Sidelined Its Citizens and Privatized Its Public / Edition 1

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In Downsizing Democracy, Matthew A. Crenson and Benjamin Ginsberg describe how the once powerful idea of a collective citizenry has given way to a concept of personal, autonomous democracy. Today, political change is effected through litigation, lobbying, and term limits, rather than active participation in the political process, resulting in narrow special interest groups dominating state and federal decision-making. At a time when an American's investment in the democratic process has largely been reduced to an annual contribution to a political party or organization, Downsizing Democracy offers a critical reassessment of American democracy.

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Editorial Reviews


This fascinating book surveys the changing relationship between the U.S. government and the populace that constitutes its whole... Highly recommended.

Political Science Quarterly

Downsizing Democracy has the marks of a book that will be remembered. It applies a master thesis to many different facets of American political life, inviting the reader to see a vast array of previously familiar material as if for the first time and as a whole. In the authors' view, we have come to the end of a centuries-long epoch during which government and political elites needed publicly engaged citizenry... The authors prosecute their thesis... with admirable insight and persuasiveness.

— Hugh Heclo

The Nation

A welcome corrective to what has been a stampede in recent years toward blaming citizens... How we act is affected by how our government treats us, the processes for influencing decision-making that are available to us and the societal structures that provide us with more or less time, resources, incentive and opportunity to venture into the public sphere... But I don't think this book lets citizens off the hook... Crenson and Ginsberg have taken an important step in identifying and describing that relationship [between formal democracy and everyday democracy], and their work calls us to pay attention to whether institutional processes today support or undermine everyday democracy.

— Palma J. Strand

Washington Post Book World

A thoughtful and useful analysis of present-day democratic decline.

— Kerry Lauerman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801878862
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,269,380
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew A. Crenson is a professor of political science at the Johns Hopkins University whose books include Building the Invisible Orphanage and Neighborhood Politics. Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and director of the Center for the Study of American Government at the Johns Hopkins University. His books include Politics by Other Means and American Government: Freedom and Power.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Paperback Edition
Ch. 1 From Popular to Personal Democracy 1
Ch. 2 The Rise and Fall of the Citizen 20
Ch. 3 Elections without Voters 47
Ch. 4 The Old Patronage and the New 80
Ch. 5 Disunited We Stand 106
Ch. 6 From Masses to Mailing Lists 122
Ch. 7 The Jurisprudence of Personal Democracy 152
Ch. 8 Movement without Members 182
Ch. 9 Privatizing the Public 198
Ch. 10 Does Anyone Need Citizens? 234
Notes 245
Index 285
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