The Necessity of Politics: Reclaiming American Public Life

Overview


Even in the midst of an economic boom, most Americans would agree that our civic institutions are hard pressed and that we are growing ever more cynical and disconnected from one another.

In response to this bleak assessment, advocates of "civil society" argue that rejuvenating our neighborhoods, churches, and community associations will lead to a more moral, civic-minded polity. Christopher Beem argues that while the movement's goals are laudable, simply restoring local ...

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Overview


Even in the midst of an economic boom, most Americans would agree that our civic institutions are hard pressed and that we are growing ever more cynical and disconnected from one another.

In response to this bleak assessment, advocates of "civil society" argue that rejuvenating our neighborhoods, churches, and community associations will lead to a more moral, civic-minded polity. Christopher Beem argues that while the movement's goals are laudable, simply restoring local institutions will not solve the problem; a civil society also needs politics and government to provide a sense of shared values and ideas. Tracing the concept back to Tocqueville and Hegel, Beem shows that both thinkers faced similar problems and both rejected civil society as the sole solution. He then shows how, in the case of the Civil Rights movement, both political groups and the federal government were necessary to effect a new consensus on race.

Taking up the arguments of Robert Putnam, Michael Sandel, and others, this timely book calls for a more developed sense of what the state is for and what our politics ought to be about.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Some are suggesting that all America needs to build trust and a common purpose again is to work for a "civil society," rejuvenating local institutions rather than government. Beem, who directs the Democracy and Community Program at the Johnson Foundation, argues instead that a moral society also needs politics. He explores the notion of a civil society, the modern maladies of cynicism and distrust, and the thoughts of Tocqueville and Hegel. The book concludes by using the American Civil Rights Movement to illustrate how civil society works best when it is integrated with politics. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226041469
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Series: Morality and Society Series Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 322
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Christopher Beem directs the Democracy and Community Program at The Johnson Foundation and is the author of Pluralism and Consensus: Conceptions of the Good in the American Polity.
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Table of Contents


Foreword
Jean Bethke Elshtain
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part 1: The Concept of Civil Society
1. The Concept of Civil Society and the Contemporary Predicament
2. The Concept of Civil Society and the Modern Problematic
Part 2: The Progenitors of Civil Society
3. The Tocquevillian Tradition
4. The Tocquevillian Legacy
5. Hegelian Tradition
6. Civil Society in the Polish Solidarity Movement
7. The Product of Two Traditions
Part 3: The Insufficiency of Civil Society
8. Tocqueville, Hegel, and the Sufficiency of Civil Society
9. The Contemporary Concept and the Question of Sufficiency
Part 4: The Necessity of Politics
10. Medium Party Political Associations
11. Government and the Construction of the Moral Society
12. The American State as a Moral Actor
Notes
Index
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