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Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life (The Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture Series) Paperback – March 15, 2004


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Product Details

  • Series: The Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture Series (Book 8)
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (March 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806136278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806136271
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Theda Skocpol is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology and Director of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University. She is the author of numerous books, including Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States and The Missing Middle: Working Families and the Future of American Social Policy.


More About the Author

Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and past president of the American Political Science Association.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By W Boudville HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A very nicely written book that raises several speculations. The author points out that in the 19th century, many of the local groups that people joined were chapters of national or transnational organisations. This was part of their attractiveness. Joining a local group gave comradely ties with others across the nation, that you had never met, and probably would never meet. How peculiar was this to the US, as compared with the European countries from which many of these people recently left? Is there any way to quantify this? A little unfair to ask, perhaps, because of the sheer amount of research needed to flesh it out. But the above questions arise naturally out of the research summarised in the book.
Historians have asked if the US was qualitatively different from other countries. ("Vineyard of liberty" etc.) The issues raised by the book give us another way to address the question. Perhaps Americans were more inclined to join such nation spanning groups because as an immigrant, footloose people, if they did not have centuries of binding to the same soil and neighbours, they wanted some other and multiple means of belonging? Was the striking success of the groups in some part due to such inchoate urgings?
Another way to test would be to look into the history of similar groups in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Skocpol also points out that from the 1960s onwards, the membership of such groups in the US fell significantly. She advanced several reasons. But there is one possible reason for some of the decline that she did not mention. From the mid 1950s, TV became pervasive. Remember that joining a volunteer group is done in your recreational time. TV is a notorious competitor for that time, due to its convenience and cheapness.
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33 of 58 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
...

Many years ago, I fell into the habit of joining imaginary organizations. From time to time, depending on the pomposity level of the cocktail party I was attending, I have been:
President, STABB, Society for the Total Annihilation of Beanie Babies.
Executive Director, AAAAPM, "QuadrupleA/PM," the American Association for the Advancement of Applied PeripheroMetrics (Our motto: "If It's Far Enough Out, We'll Measure It").
Senior Logothete, Anarchic Chaotic Licentious Utopians, (ACLU).
And most recently, Associate Visiting Carnivore, Protesters Enjoying Talking Angry (PETA).
But now comes a new endeavor. APPROACH. Articulate Perceptive Persons Resolutely Opposed to American Civic Hypochondria.
Thanks, Theda. I couldn't have done it without you.
The Theda just acknowledged is the prolific and engaging Theda Skocpol, Harvard political scientist/sociologist and well-known commentator on American society, social policy, and all matters there unto pertaining. "Diminished Democracy" is not her best effort, if only because it started out in life as a University of Oklahoma lecture series, and lectures don't always transition well into books. Still, there is absolutely nothing wrong with "Diminished Democracy." It's clear, straightforward, solid, logical.
The problem is the (expletive deleted) genre.
It all seems to have started 50 years ago, with David Riesman's "The Lonely Crowd." Ever since, academics, pundits, and politicians have bemoaned the increasing isolation of Americans from each other, especially their ever-diminishing propensity to join the "voluntary civic associations" which, according to Tocqueville - Would congress please pass a 10-year moratorium on quoting Tocqueville?
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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. Duboff on September 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book was incredible. I have never read anything so thought-provoking and well-written. I highly suggest that you read this book to fully understand the transition from membership to management in American Civic Life. Enjoy it.
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Weiss on January 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Received book in good order. No problem there. However, the book is boring and overlong, with no conclusion. Readers on this subject can safely skip it.
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1 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Mendelson on July 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The presentation of the data in the first 200 or so pages was excellent. In the author does a good job showing what the USA has lost in jettisoning its classic membership based civic associations.

But the author refuses to consider or is unaware of some causes, effects and solutions to the problem that do not fit in with faculty lounge political chic. For instance, she never considers the possibility that civil rights laws have made our country into a "nation of enemies" to quote Phillip K. Howard. Surely, the government granting citizens the opportunity to sue one another for slights to ethnic pride or whatever had SOMETHING to do with the civic disintegration she describes. Immigration is another issue that might also have something to do with the diminishment of democracy that she decries. Not even touched. That despite social science evidence from Robert Putnam on how diversity diminishes social capital. Many of the old line civic institutions such as the Knights of Pythias or Columbus, etc. were male only. The author makes little no mention of how feminism helped to destroy these institutions. Men have a need to associate with one another in the absence of women. Why is it that the author does nothing to refute my sneaking suspicion that feminists dedicated themselves to suing or otherwise threatening these "bastions of male privilege" if they didn't admit women on the same basis, thereby depriving them of some of their point?

Also not touched is the elite obsession with "multiculturalism". If those in the cultural high ground encourage citizens to divide themselves up into squabbling ethnic, racial and sexual minorities, of COURSE there will be civic disintegration. This omission is blaring. But, I would guess only a professor could miss it.
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