Books for the News, Politics and Current Events

Voters are citizens

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At 4:15 this afternoon, Peter Alexander Meyers’s Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen will be the focus of an Author Meets Critics session of the American Political Science Association annual meeting in Toronto. The upcoming event got Toronto Globe & Mail blogger Douglas Bell thinking about Meyers’s work, which Bell praised as “the first [book] of what will amount to nothing less than a comprehensive theory of politics.” Bell suggested, in fact, that Canadian Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff should pin over his desk a passage from the book:

The hope and flaw of democracy is that it boils down, not to the will of the people, but to the judgment of the Citizen, which is to say the capacity of each person to size up a situation and pitch his or her energies one way or another. The list of impediments and constraints in this practice is as long as a lifetime. This book in its own eccentric way, urges engagement in your own life; lived as it is, this is almost bound to bring you to the position of the Citizen. For every day is something new. Thresholds for action are constantly shifting ground. In the weave of lives lived together with others, the power of the Citizen is as simple as it is unpredictable: Shall I let this pass or shall I stand against it? Is this abuse, this lie, this outrage, the one that will bring me into the streets or will I avert my eyes, my ears again, and close my door.

“Voters long to be treated as Citizens,” Bell writes, “not subjects; Barack Obama proved that. This could be Ig’s time. But the time it is a wastin’.”