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Attention Deficit DemocracyThe Paradox of Civic Engagement$
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Ben Berger

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691144689

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691144689.001.0001

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(p.1) Chapter 1 Introduction
Attention Deficit Democracy

Ben Berger

Princeton University Press

This book examines what it calls democracy's political attention deficit and the paradox of civic engagement. It calls for an end to the umbrella term “civic engagement,” arguing that it confuses more than it illuminates. More specifically, it contends that we should put civic to rest while coming to grips with engagement. Civic simply means that a subject pertains to citizenship or a city, so it can easily be subsumed under the rubric of political without any loss of conceptual clarity. Engagement entails a combination of attention and energy (or activity), the two primary components of political governance. While seeking to consign the phrase “civic engagement” to exile or obsolescence, the book stresses the value of political engagement by drawing on the views of Hannah Arendt and Alexis de Tocqueville. Prescriptions for pragmatic democratic reform are given; for example, reforming our political institutions so that they channel existing political attention and energy more efficiently.

Keywords:   democracy, attention deficit, civic engagement, energy, political governance, political engagement, Hannah Arendt, Alexis de Tocqueville, political institutions

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