How America Sidelined Its Citizens and Privatized Its Public
Originally publushed in 2002. In Downsizing Democracy, Matthew A. Crenson and Benjamin Ginsberg describe how the once powerful idea of a collective citizenry has given way to a concept of personal, autonomous democracy. Today, political change is effected through litigation, lobbying, and term limits, rather than active participation in the political process, resulting in narrow special interest groups dominating state and federal decision-making. At a time when an American's investment in the democratic process has largely been reduced to an annual contribution to a political party or organization, Downsizing Democracy offers a critical reassessment of American democracy.
About the Authors
Matthew A. Crenson is a professor of political science at the Johns Hopkins University whose books include Building the Invisible Orphanage and Neighborhood Politics. Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and director of the Center for the Study of American Government at the Johns Hopkins University. His books include Politics by Other Means and American Government: Freedom and Power.
"A welcome corrective to what has been a stampede in recent years toward blaming citizens... How we act is affected by how our government treats us, the processes for influencing decision-making that are available to us and the societal structures that provide us with more or less time, resources, incentive and opportunity to venture into the public sphere... But I don't think this book lets citizens off the hook... Crenson and Ginsberg have taken an important step in identifying and describing that relationship [between formal democracy and everyday democracy], and their work calls us to pay attention to whether institutional processes today support or undermine everyday democracy."
"A thoughtful and useful analysis of present-day democratic decline."
"Downsizing Democracy has the marks of a book that will be remembered. It applies a master thesis to many different facets of American political life, inviting the reader to see a vast array of previously familiar material as if for the first time and as a whole. In the authors' view, we have come to the end of a centuries-long epoch during which government and political elites needed publicly engaged citizenry... The authors prosecute their thesis... with admirable insight and persuasiveness."
"This fascinating book surveys the changing relationship between the U.S. government and the populace that constitutes its whole... Highly recommended."
"Downsizing Democracy offers a sweeping and unsparing portrait of democratic decline in America. Crenson and Ginsberg refute accounts that blame ordinary citizens for our listless democracy. Instead they show how institutional changes have freed elites from mass constituencies and encouraged the substitution of personal action for political mobilization."
"Matthew Crenson and Benjamin Ginsberg make a powerful, controversial argument with sweeping implications. Their book is an important contribution to the debate over the state of American democracy that will be influential and widely read."
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