Saving Relational Politics
Peter Levine, Associate Dean for Research and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs in Tufts University’s Jonathan Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
Billion-dollar presidential campaigns, corporate lobbying victories, and dysfunctional legislatures may dominate the headlines, but today is also a time of democratic innovation at a human scale. In carefully designed settings, everyday citizens encounter one another, express themselves, and work together on public problems. Both books under review describe events and processes that, as Catherine Lee writes, aim to engage the public “in more intensive ways than traditional, one way public outreach” (p. 56). Lee focuses on dialogues, deliberations, and other organized, face-to-face conversations about public issues. Her scope is restricted to the United States, but she includes dialogues sponsored by for-profit corporations as well as those that originate with nonprofits and governments because she thinks that the for-profit versions influence the other cases. She is eager to establish the importance of organized ‘dialogue and deliberation, arguing that it attracts more than $100 million annually (p. 52) and employs thousands of specialist professionals. She asserts that these organizers are influential; indeed, they have “influenced democratic politics and work and community life beyond their wildest dreams” (p. 7). Their models have metastasized across sectors and among vastly different groups of people…
Perspectives on Politics / Volume 14 / Issue 02 / June 2016, pp 468-473 / Copyright © American Political Science Association 2016