Reconnecting Citizens and Public Life
Harry C. Boyte
"Everyday Politics restores the dignity of real politics, with all its warts and conflicts, as the best way for diverse citizens to build a common life."—William A. Galston, Stern Professor of Civic Engagement, University of Maryland
"As Mark Twain said about the weather, everybody talks about the need for a new politics of participation and deliberation, but nobody does anything about it. Harry Boyte has. Through a combination of experience, political analysis, and philosophy, he shows us how 'everyday politics' can actually improve people's lives."—Jennifer Hochschild, Harvard University, and editor of Perspectives on Politics
"Boyte's novel take on the burgeoning efforts to renew civic life is a must-read for scholars and community-based practitioners alike who are recreating work-centered commonwealth traditions in an information age."—David Mathews, President, Kettering Foundation
"An upbeat appraisal of how citizens have formed community organizations that have tackled local issues—crime, economic development—that government policies along could not address. This worthy antidote for political apathy includes several case studies of successful civic organizations."—Foreword Magazine
"This is a wonderful book for anyone with a concern about the failings of the present political system and culture and a need to explore ways to offset them. Highly recommended."—Choice
"Harry Boyte and the Center for Democracy and Citizenship have without doubt exercised the premier intellectual leadership role in the movement for civic renewal in the U.S. over the past decade. In Everyday Politics, Boyte describes their approach."—Carmen Sirianni, coauthor of Civic Innovation in America
Increasingly a spectator sport, electoral politics have become bitterly polarized by professional consultants and lobbyists and have been boiled down to the distributive mantra of "who gets what." In Everyday Politics, Harry Boyte transcends partisan politics to offer an alternative. He demonstrates how community-rooted activities reconnect citizens to engaged, responsible public life, and not just on election day but throughout the year. Boyte demonstrates that this type of activism has a rich history and strong philosophical foundation. It rests on the stubborn faith that the talents and insights of ordinary citizens—from nursery school to nursing home—are crucial elements in public life.
Drawing on concrete examples of successful public work projects accomplished by diverse groups of people across the nation, Boyte demonstrates how citizens can master essential political skills, such as understanding issues in public terms, mapping complex issues of institutional power to create alliances, raising funds, communicating, and negotiating across lines of difference. He describes how these skills can be used to address the larger challenges of our time, thereby advancing a renewed vision of democratic society and freedom in the twenty-first century.
Harry C. Boyte is founder and codirector of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the University of Minnesota and Senior Fellow at the Humphrey Institute. He is the author of many books, including The Backyard Revolution and, with Sara Evans, Free Spaces.