Dr. Amy Gutmann is an internationally renowned scholar whose research addresses some of the most salient issues in contemporary society, including democratic deliberation, religious freedom, equal opportunity, race and multiculturalism, education, and ethics and public affairs.
Her systematic analysis of the role of education was summarized in Democratic Education, published in 1987 (expanded ed.1999). This book has been translated into a dozen languages, and is widely taught in schools of education and in liberal arts curricula throughout the world.
Democratic Education began a scholarly debate on the democratic governance of schools, and informs arguments on school choice, school vouchers, parental authority in education, and education for citizenship. Democratic Education also was the touchstone both for Dr. Gutmann's subsequent work on deliberative democracy and for the values that she has aspired to advance as a scholar and University president: Freedom, opportunity, and mutual respect.
Another major scholarly contribution by Dr. Gutmann was made in the field of political philosophy: She and Dennis Thompson (of Harvard) developed the conceptual framework for deliberative democracy as well as many of its applications in contemporary democracies. In Democracy and Disagreement, widely seen as the definitive book on this approach to democratic theory, the authors proposed deliberation not as a panacea, but rather as an antidote and alternative to coarseness, intransigence, and extremism degrading politics and public discourse in America. In 2004, Dr. Gutmann and Thompson followed up with Why Deliberative Democracy?
Turning to the political polarization and legislative gridlock that has increasingly defined American governance in recent years, in 2012, Dr. Gutmann and Thompson published The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It, arguing that uncompromising mindsets lead ultimately only to the preservation of the status quo. The authors demonstrate that it is not political partisanship—strong partisans in fact often are effective in the art of political compromise—but rather the advent of 'the perpetual campaign cycle' that contributes most to political stasis.
Dr. Gutmann's scholarship in practical ethics grew from her foundational work on deliberative democracy. Her case study textbook ( authored with Thompson) Ethics and Politics: Cases and Comments (fourth edition, 2005) builds on a course in ethics and public policy that she taught for many years at Princeton, and her vision of how deliberative democracy can be applied to pressing matters in practical ethics, including bioethics. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Gutmann Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.