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Building America: The Democratic Promise of Public Work Paperback – May 24, 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...a marvelous piece of work. This is a book much needed, and deeply appreciated by those of us sometimes so mired in our corners of the world that we forget how many others there are out there with us." --Deborah Meier, author of The Power of Their Ideas and director of Central Park East Schools "Harry Boyte and Nancy Kari make an invaluable contribution by reminding us that democracy is about action, solving problems, and all that is implied in 'public work.'" --David Mathews, President, Kettering Foundation "Harry Boyte and Nancy Kari have captured the words and music of Americans doing the serious work of democracy. They show us the path to restoring vitality to the American experience." --David Cohen, Co-director, Advocacy Institute

From the Back Cover

Throughout history, work has always been the taproot of American democracy, enabling diverse people to forge connections with each other and to address the nation's problems. Through work, people gain greater visibility, authority, and a larger intellectual horizon. They come to see themselves as creators of their communities, stakeholders in the country, and guardians of the commonwealth.

Building America, in a pathbreaking analysis of diverse civic practices, argues that work is the center of effective citizenship. As late as the New Deal Era, Abraham Lincoln's idea of work-centered government remained vibrant and fueled reform movements like union organizing. Many jobs, local schools, community groups, the Civilian Conservation Corp., and other settings provided rich experiences in public work. Images of work filled popular culture—Will Rogers movies, Langston Hughes's poetry, post office art. But today, work has lost its larger meaning, and government has become largely a service provider.

From low income communities to colleges, high-tech newspapers to government agencies and schools, Harry C. Boyte and Nancy N. Kari look to the revival of public-spirited work as a key to the rebirth of democracy in our time. Their exploration of the larger meanings of work leads to provocatively different approaches to change. These include many examples of citizen-government partnership in solving problems. By working on school reform and economic development in Baltimore, the mainly black group BUILD created a public space for overcoming searing racial divisions. Boyte and Kari explore new initiatives like the public journalism movement aimed at strengthening journalists' responsibilities to improve democracy. They offer lessons for turning jobs into public work in our changing economy. Building America concludes with a call for national action to renew the idea of "government by the people" through public work. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press (May 24, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566394589
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566394581
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,416,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Boyte and Kari illustrate in vivid terms the challenges of our current political dilemma: America has become a nation of consumers at every level of our economy, government, and even the non-profit/volunteer sector. Citizens no longer see themselves as distinct actors, involved in the day to day toils of sustaining public goods and public life in general. Instead, this book travels through American history with up to date examples to make the point that a pattern of "citizens as consumers" leads to "cut my taxes, increase the spending" whining, with an overall erosion of public trust in our government and other public institutions. Boyte and Kari point to "work" as a central tenet of American democracy, as opposed to democratic self-governance as simply voting (at best) and consumption of public services.
If you have ever felt angry or disillusioned about government as an increasingly larger service provider, the disproportionate power of experts and political professionals in our government, and the growing cynicism and lack of faith in American politics, then this book will replenish your energy with historical references from the Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr, and offers a number of contemporary, hands-on examples of how democracy is being revitalized throughout the United States.
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Format: Paperback
Boyte and Kari articulate the breakdown of citizenship in America, emphasizing the decline of shared experience and ownership in American public life. The dynamics of modern work, have taken people away from collective experiences, creating a contemporary society that places little value on individual contributions to the greater society. Boyte and Kari explore the relationship bewteen work and democracy, which they believe are both on the decline in America.
Much of what Boyte and Kari write of, to me, reinforced the mainstay of Roosevelt's New Deal policies of putting people back to work -- which ultimately restored their dignatity, created identity as people contributed to society, and restored faith in American Democracy. This was an unparalled time in American History, where the people believed in their leader, accepted common values, and reuninited a fractured nation -- all on social-psychological terms based on collective participation in public life.
I found this to be a very interesting and informative book. The book is relatively easy to read, and reframes the the problems of public work and democracy from a historical context -- which from my eyes makes it a very educational and worthwhile work.
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Format: Paperback
This book brings us back to the absolute roots of our America. An idea that has been lost in a mass of individualism and consumerism.
In fact, this book actually got me through the recent Sept. 11, 2001 events in NYC. I read it under the instruction of my College English Professor. At first it seemed overwhelming, but before long there was a feeling of hope.
The United States over the years has faced phenomenal obstacles...time and time again we have come back and stronger than ever each time. It focuses on how people, like you and me have taken an initiative for positive change and have succeeded, time and time again. Using actual historical events to back the ideas presented.
This book is intense, yet simple. It proves without a doubt the important role each of us plays directly affects the outcome as a whole of this our United States.
I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
work certainly has lost most of its meaning here in the US, I agree.
I retired as soon as I could.
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