Three sociologists, an anthropologist and a political scientist walk into a bar…and the result is a new book on the state, and emerging new forms, of civic participation in contemporary America. While we seem to be living an age marked by political apathy and growing distrust for government and political institutions, there also seems to be a growing set of opportunities for Americans to “get involved” and “make a difference” in society. From new forms of grass roots activism, to the increasing importance that social media plays in organizing political movements, the ways Americans participate in social change have dramatically evolved even while pessimism toward politics has reached new historical lows.
In the new book The Civic Imagination a group of ethnographers provide a detailed, account of how civically active Americans understand, talk and act on their different visions for social change. Reporting on the ways that organizers envision their impacts on society, but also how they feel they have innovated new forms of participating, this multi-site ethnography challenges assertions that we live in a political age driven American apathy. At the same time, this book reminds us of the limitations, if not blinders, of these new forms of political involvement, particularly revolving issues of inequality. So before you download that new Social Justice mobile app, or organize your next Occupy event at the public library, take a listen to our interview with the authors of the Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life
Gianpaolo Baiocchi is an Associate Professor of Sociology at New York University
Elizabeth A. Bennett is assistant Professor of International Affairs at Lewis & Clark College
Alissa Cordner is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Whitman College.
Peter Taylor Klein is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Environmental and Urban Studies at Bard College.
Stephanie Savell is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Brown University.