American democracy is in many ways more vital than ever before. Advocacy groups proliferate and formerly marginalized groups enjoy new opportunities. But worrisome trends exist. Millions of Americans are drawing back from involvements with community affairs and politics. Voters stay home; public officials grapple with distrust or indifference; and people are less likely to cooperate on behalf of shared goals. Observers across the spectrum of opinion agree that it is vital to determine what is happening and why—so that Americans can take well-informed, effective steps to revitalize our national community. The book opens with an eagle-eye look at the roots of America's special patterns of civic engagement, examining the ways social groups and government and electoral politics have influenced each other. Other chapters examine the impact of advocacy groups and socioeconomic inequalities on democratic processes and probe the influence of long-term social and cultural changes on voluntary associations and civic participation. The book concludes by asking why social liberation has been accompanied by new inequalities and the erosion of many important forms of citizen leverage and participation. Coming together from several disciplines, contributors include Jeffrey M. Berry, Henry E. Brady, John Brehm, Steven Brint, Elisabeth S. Clemens, Peter Dobkin Hall, Wendy M. Rahn, Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba, and Robert Wuthnow.
Copublished with the Russell Sage Foundation