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Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time 1st Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312204358
ISBN-10: 0312204353
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

These are indeed cynical times. But to hide behind the smugness of cynicism is a kind of self-imposed death sentence, explains writer and social commentator Paul Loeb. In fact, now is the ideal time for gathering all our strengths and wisdom as spiritual beings and applying ourselves to shaping a better world, he claims.

Are we talking social activism here? Well, yes. But before you cringe from images of shrill, humorless, burned out activists, keep in mind that Loeb is talking about a new kind of activism--an exciting, spiritual model for creating social change. We don't have to be pious or martyred saints (as he explains throughout one chapter), starving ourselves in the name of a cause or staging protests in freezing rain. We can be "good enough" activists, assuming the task of helping 10 people in need rather than taking on the globe. We can remember the power of storytelling when convincing an audience, rather than angrily spewing scary facts. We can replenish ourselves so that we do not burn out. We can emphasize themes such as community and forgiveness rather than separatism and blame.

This is a deeply spiritual book, but make no mistake: Loeb's writing, research, and integrity are as solid as they come. Soul of a Citizen may well become The Handbook for activism at the turn of the century. --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

Informed by his lifelong participation in peace, justice and environmental causes, Loeb (Generation at the Crossroads, etc.) offers Americans a new vision for personal engagement with societal issues. A Seattle-based scholar, he eloquently argues for a return to community involvement and social activism, which, he says, have declined since the 1960s and 70s. He gently chides former activists lost to private pursuits, fatigue and cynicism and warns of increasing social isolation and the widening opportunity gap between rich and poor, despite our robust economy. Throughout, Loeb emphasizes the psychological and spiritual importance of the human connection. Believing that personal stories, not politics, capture peoples attention, he seamlessly weaves in inspiring examples of unexpected heroism in ordinary people and successful activism. One such example is 100-year-old Hazel Wood, the grandmother of the environmental movement, who championed neighborhood, day care, economic inequity and pollution issues. Loeb challenges all citizens to take action on their concerns and suggests an activist model for our times, stressing a Zen-like satisfaction in the journey. Even readers who disagree with his liberal politics will find compassion, intelligence and thought-provoking wisdom here. Agent, Geri Thoma of the Elaine Markson Agency; $100,000 ad/promo; first serial to Redbook, Modern Maturity and Parents; 16-city author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (March 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312204353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312204358
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #492,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Rogat Loeb has spent thirty-five years researching and writing about citizen responsibility and empowerment--asking what makes some people choose lives of social commitment, while others abstain, and exploring how to find the hope to stay engaged despite all the frustrations and barriers. Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Challenging Time has over 100,000 copies in print and St Martin's will publish a wholly revised edition out in April 2010. The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books, 2004), was named the #3 political book of fall 2004 by the History Channel and American Book Association, won the Nautilus Award for best social change book, and was one of six books selected for the Sierra Club's new common reading groups. He's also the author of Generation at the Crossroads: Apathy & Action on the American Campus, Nuclear Culture, and Hope in Hard Times. An Affiliate Scholar at Seattle's Center for Ethical Leadership, he's written for the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Psychology Today, Utne Reader, Mother Jones, The Nation, Redbook, Huffington Post, the International Herald Tribune and the Christian Science Monitor, been interviewed on CNN, NPR, C-SPAN, NBC news, CBC, and the BBC, and lectured at 400 colleges throughout the country and numerous national and international conferences. He also created and ran Campus Compact's 2008 Campus Election Engagement Project, which helped colleges and universities in 15 states engage their students in the election, and his 2002 talk to the American Association of State Colleges & Universities inspired that association's 200-campus American Democracy Project. See www.paulloeb.org

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This incredible book teaches us that everyone can work for social justice and claim their right to participate as a citizen in everyday life. In a time where many small groups of ordinary citizens are choosing to re-engage in American democracy through Salons and Circles, we are grateful for this book to inspire and empower us. Loeb uses storytelling to illustrate how involvement in citizenship is surprisingly powerful and creates a tremendous sense of personal and spiritual growth. This hopeful and transformative book invites each of us to choose to take responsible action instead of choosing the civic apathy that has allowed America's governing bodies to listen to the wishes of the most powerful and profitable over the majority of its people. It is time for each of us to choose a better way -- our children, our communities, our democracy, and our natural world depend on us. This book is a great step in the right direction!
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Format: Paperback
First off, I have to say that this was not a light read. It took me twice as long to read this book as most other books do. I found myself reading and re-reading the early parts of the book. Loeb seemed to me to drift in the early chapters, heading in directions that seemed incongruent. I think the book would have been just as good if it were about 100 pages shorter. The last chapters of the book, from the chapter about burnout on, were very good.
However, having waded through it, I found the message that Loeb was trying to get across hit home with me. While I would not consider myself inactive, I would also not consider myself an activist. Paul Loeb has inspired me to become more of an activist. To find a cause that is most important to me and take a stand. If you are not active now, this book can be the spark to ignite your fire.
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Format: Paperback
My husband and I have always wanted to help improve the world, especially on enviromental and sustainability issues. In the past we have felt overwhelmed to do anything. All issues appeared to big, the gov't too far away and unreachable.

Then we both read the book "Soul of a Citizen" by Paul Roget Loeb, we now know that our efforts do add up and make a difference. We are currently working on a letter writing campaign to get the Children's Enviromental Protection Act passed.
This is an excellent book. Read it today and start changing the world!
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Format: Paperback
I have been reading, Soul of a Citizen, and am incredibly touched by it. Everything Paul Loeb says fits my thoughts and feeling perfectly. I've been looking for this book much of my adult life. It seems to help my frequent sense of hopelessness when it comes to the state of the planet and my 'pet issues.' As I read it, I get more inspiration to do more than I normally do.
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Format: Paperback
According to Soul of a Citizen, recognition of the economic and political imbalances in the world will likely result in either cynicism or activism. But only activism, or social involvement, is consistent with our democracy and can result in psychological or spiritual growth. The nature or the scope of the cause to be pursued is basically secondary next to the soul-enhancing nature of activism.
Loeb tells the story of about twenty-five citizens who reacted against some sort of economic or political situation that was thrust upon them by enlisting the aid of other citizens to combat the situation. Loeb is concerned with showing that imperfect knowledge and starting small can effect change. He stresses that activists must be patient, that success may be slow, that support is needed, and that burnout can easily occur.
Loeb trys to link his activists with social movements from the past. But the kinds of systemic change that concerned the Knights of Labor, the Populists, the Wobblies, and the Socialists around the turn of the century are not what the activists that Loeb profiles are all about. In fact, Loeb eschews the detailed critiques of society that those historical groups produced. While Loeb contends that structural changes are needed for our society, he downplays the need to develop the kind of expertise needed to engage in that level of change.
Loeb speaks of the isolating tendencies of television, but says nothing about its potential as a propaganda tool to get across a particular message or to limit the free exchange of ideas. His talk of the village square seems strange in an era of corporate-controlled media and the pseudo village squares of suburban mega-malls.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a keeper. It's a good, inspiring read, plus it's good to simply have around, reminding you of its contents. It struck me as a political version of Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way." While she explains that "born" artists are a myth, Loeb describes community activists who aren't saints or crazies. Both writers try to motivate flawed, busy people to forget about perfection and take the plunge-whether it be into playful creativity or a social cause-in order to feel more whole and alive. I recommend this personal guidebook to everyone, to every age and class, from the left to the right.
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