Can Public Life Be Regenerated? A Cousins Research Group Report on Citizens in Democracy



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Democracies need something more than written constitutions, multiple parties, free elections, and representative governments. They also depend on a strong public life, a rich depository of social capital, a sense of community, and a healthy civil society.

In this Cousins Research Group Report on Citizens in Democracy, Kettering Foundation president David Mathews asks whether it is possible to “reweave the social fabric,” to generate social capital where it is lacking, to build a sense of community in a fragmented, polarized city, and to invigorate public life at a time when many Americans are seeking security in private sanctuaries.

Drawing on what the Kettering Foundation has learned from its research and observations of communities from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to El Paso, Texas, and from Newark, New Jersey, to Orange County, California, and from studies others have done, Mathews proposes a way of thinking about public life, or a para­digm. Maybe, he suggests, it is possible for towns and cities, perhaps even counties and states, to change their politics. Maybe public life, and democracy, can be regenerated.

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Civil Society
Public Deliberation