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University of Chicago Press
Citizen Speak: The Democratic Imagination in American Life

Citizen Speak: The Democratic Imagination in American Life

by Andrew J Perrin


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When we think about what constitutes being a good citizen, routine activities like voting, letter writing, and paying attention to the news spring to mind. But in Citizen Speak, Andrew J. Perrin argues that these activities are only a small part of democratic citizenship—a standard of citizenship that requires creative thinking, talking, and acting.

For Citizen Speak, Perrin met with labor, church, business, and sports organizations and proposed to them four fictive scenarios: what if your senator is involved in a scandal, or your police department is engaged in racial profiling, or a local factory violates pollution laws, or your nearby airport is slated for expansion? The conversations these challenges inspire, Perrin shows, require imagination. And what people can imagine doing in response to those scenarios depends on what’s possible, what’s important, what’s right, and what’s feasible. By talking with one another, an engaged citizenry draws from a repertoire of personal and institutional resources to understand and reimagine responses to situations as they arise. Building on such political discussions, Citizen Speak shows how a rich culture of association and democratic discourse provides the infrastructure for a healthy democracy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226660813
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 10/15/2006
Series: Morality and Society Series
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Andrew J. Perrin is assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is coauthor of Women of Courage: Jewish and Italian Immigrant Women.

Table of Contents

1. Citizenship, Creativity, and the Democratic Imagination
2. How Do Civic Organizations Mobilize?
3. Talking about Politics in Groups: What to Look for in Citizenship Discourse
4. Mistrust, Information, and Legitimation: Justifying Citizenship Decisions
5. Morality, Ideology, and Interest
6. Capacity and Expression: The Tactical Repertoire of Citizenship
7. Political Microcultures: The Structure of Political Talk
8. Conclusion: How to Use Civic Life to Build Citizenship
Appendix A. Methodology: How Associations Mobilize
Appendix B. Methodology: Focus Group Research

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