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Attention Deficit Democracy

The Paradox of Civic Engagement

Ben Berger

Handwringing about political apathy is as old as democracy itself. As early as 425 BC, the playwright Aristophanes ridiculed his fellow Athenians for gossiping in the market instead of voting. In more recent decades, calls for greater civic engagement as a democratic cure-all have met with widespread agreement. But how realistic--or helpful--is it to expect citizens to devote more attention and energy to politics? In Attention Deficit Democracy, Ben Berger provides a surprising new perspective on the problem of civic engagement, challenging idealists who aspire to revolutionize democracies and their citizens, but also taking issue with cynics who think that citizens cannot--and need not--do better.

"Civic engagement" has become an unwieldy and confusing catchall, Berger argues. We should talk instead of political, social, and moral engagement, figuring out which kinds of engagement make democracy work better, and how we might promote them. Focusing on political engagement and taking Alexis de Tocqueville and Hannah Arendt as his guides, Berger identifies ways to achieve the political engagement we want and need without resorting to coercive measures such as compulsory national service or mandatory voting.

By providing a realistic account of the value of political engagement and practical strategies for improving it, while avoiding proposals we can never hope to achieve, Attention Deficit Democracy makes a persuasive case for a public philosophy that much of the public can actually endorse.

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AUDEM: The International Journal of Higher Education and Democracy

Vol. 1 (2010) - vol. 4 (2013)

AUDEM: The International Journal of Higher Education and Democracy grows out of the work of the Alliance of Universities for Democracy (AUDEM). AUDEM focuses on the integration of universities at competitive levels into the world academic communities. With this journal, AUDEM adds another tool in its effort to expand opportunities for international collaboration in higher education and to promote the role of higher education in social and civic development.

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The Australian Citizens’ Parliament and the Future of Deliberative Democracy

Edited by Lyn Carson, John Gastil, Janette Hartz-Karp, and Ron Lubensky

Growing numbers of scholars, practitioners, politicians, and citizens recognize the value of deliberative civic engagement processes that enable citizens and governments to come together in public spaces and engage in constructive dialogue, informed discussion, and decisive deliberation. This book seeks to fill a gap in empirical studies in deliberative democracy by studying the assembly of the Australian Citizens’ parliament (ACP), which took place in Canberra on February 6–8, 2009. The ACP addressed the question, “How can the Australian political system be strengthened to serve us better?” The ACP’s Canberra assembly is the first large-scale, face-to-face deliberative project to be completely audio-recorded and transcribed, enabling an unprecedented level of qualitative and quantitative assessment of participants’ actual spoken discourse. Each chapter reports on different research questions for different purposes to benefit different audiences. Combined, they exhibit how diverse modes of research focused on a single event can enhance both theoretical and practical knowledge about deliberative democracy,

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The Autonomous Animal

Self-Governance and the Modern Subject

Claire E. Rasmussen

Autonomy is a vital concept in much of modern theory, defining the Subject as capable of self-governance. Democratic theory relies on the concept of autonomy to provide justification for participatory government and the normative goal of democratic governance, which is to protect the ability of the individual to self-govern.

Offering the first examination of the concept of autonomy from a postfoundationalist perspective, The Autonomous Animal analyzes how the ideal of self-governance has shaped everyday life. Claire E. Rasmussen begins by considering the academic terrain of autonomy, then focusing on specific examples of political behavior that allow her to interrogate these theories. She demonstrates how the adolescent—a not-yet-autonomous subject—highlights how the ideal of self-governance generates practices intended to cultivate autonomy by forming the individual’s relationship to his or her body. She points up how the war on drugs rests on the perception that drug addicts are the antithesis of autonomy and thus must be regulated for their own good. Showing that the animal rights movement may challenge the distinction between human and animal, Rasmussen also examines the place of the endurance athlete in fitness culture, where self-management of the body is the exemplar of autonomous subjectivity.

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Bad for Democracy

How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People

Dana D. Nelson

Throughout our history, Americans have been simultaneously inspired and seduced by the American presidency and concerned about the misuse of presidential power—from the time of Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR to Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush—as a grave threat to the United States. In Bad for Democracy, Dana D. Nelson goes beyond blaming particular presidents for jeopardizing the delicate balance of the Constitution to argue that it is the office of the presidency itself that endangers the great American experiment.

The emotional impulse to see the president as a hero, Nelson contends, has ceded our ability to practice government by the people and for the people. She shows that exercising democratic rights has become idealized as—and woefully limited to—the act of voting for the president.

This urgent book reveals the futility of placing all of our hopes for the future in the American president and encourages citizens to create a politics of deliberation, action, and agency. Arguing for a return of the balance of power—both symbolically and in practice—to all the branches of government, Nelson ultimately calls on Americans to change our own course and imagine a democracy that we, the people, lead together.

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Bargaining with the State

Richard A. Epstein

Bargaining with the State examines the threats to liberty that arise through the power of government selectively to distribute benefits and favors to its citizens. For Richard Epstein, the preservation of individual liberty against government contractual power advances not only the short-term interest of the individual citizen but also the long-term overall social welfare.

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Barriers to Democracy

The Other Side of Social Capital in Palestine and the Arab World

Amaney A. Jamal

Democracy-building efforts from the early 1990s on have funneled billions of dollars into nongovernmental organizations across the developing world, with the U.S. administration of George W. Bush leading the charge since 2001. But are many such "civil society" initiatives fatally flawed? Focusing on the Palestinian West Bank and the Arab world, Barriers to Democracy mounts a powerful challenge to the core tenet of civil society initiatives: namely, that public participation in private associations necessarily yields the sort of civic engagement that, in turn, sustains effective democratic institutions. Such assertions tend to rely on evidence from states that are democratic to begin with. Here, Amaney Jamal investigates the role of civic associations in promoting democratic attitudes and behavioral patterns in contexts that are less than democratic.

Jamal argues that, in state-centralized environments, associations can just as easily promote civic qualities vital to authoritarian citizenship--such as support for the regime in power. Thus, any assessment of the influence of associational life on civic life must take into account political contexts, including the relationships among associations, their leaders, and political institutions.

Barriers to Democracy both builds on and critiques the multifaceted literature that has emerged since the mid-1990s on associational life and civil society. By critically examining associational life in the West Bank during the height of the Oslo Peace Process (1993-99), and extending her findings to Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan, Jamal provides vital new insights into a timely issue.

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The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition

This thought-provoking book contributes important arguments to the fundamental debate over the place of equality in our political self-understanding. It will continue to be of immense interest to all serious students of American political thought.

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Battered Women, Their Children, and International Law

The Unintended Consequences of the Hague Child Abduction Convention

An eyeopening appraisal of how current Hague Child Abduction Convention agreements unintentionally harm abused women and their children

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Battling over Human Rights

Twenty Essays on Law, Politics and Governance

J. Oloka-Onyango

This book brings together twenty think-pieces on contemporary Human Rights issues at the international, regional and national level by one of Africa's foremost scholars of International Human Rights and Constitutional Law, J. Oloka-Onyango. Ranging from the 'Arab Spring' to the Right to Education, the collection is both an in-depth analysis of discrete topics as well as a critical reflection on the state of human rights around the world today. Taking up issues such as the African reaction to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the question of truth and reconciliation before the outbreak of post-election violence in Kenya and the links between globalization and racism, the book is a tour de force of issues that are both unique as well as pertinent to human rights struggles around the world.

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