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Is Political Engagement Better Than Sex?

Is Political Engagement Better Than Sex?

Chapter:
(p.121) Chapter 5 Is Political Engagement Better Than Sex?
Source:
Attention Deficit Democracy
Author(s):
Ben Berger
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691144689.003.0005

This chapter examines the most prominent arguments for political engagement's importance to democratic polities, including those put forward by Alexis de Tocqueville, and shows that each presents circumstantial and ultimately inconclusive evidence. It first considers the benefits that political engagement offers to individuals and communities before discussing how essential those benefits are to the health of liberal democracy. It then evaluates defenses of political engagement's intrinsic and instrumental value and proceeds to build a case for the importance of political engagement that can stand up to critical scrutiny. It contends that were should avoid very low political engagement because it might badly undermine a democracy's claims to political legitimacy. Instead, we should care about the increased, voluntary political engagement that might ensue if political institutions were more responsive, political education were more effective, and if our attention deficit democracy could be treated through liberal means.

Keywords:   political engagement, liberal democracy, intrinsic value, instrumental value, democracy, political institutions, political education, Alexis de Tocqueville

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