Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2004
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 20A

Democracy & Disobedience

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


Proponents of "deliberative democracy" have argued persuasively that democracies benefit when there is broad discussion of public affairs. But the United States will never become a perpetual town meeting in which citizens devote most of their energy to debating the public good. Nor can we divide our nation (or any of the 50 states) into small, self-governing units that would function like idealized versions of the Greek polis.

Alien Opinion 2004

Instead, we need practical, institutional reforms that will raise the quality and quantity of political talk in a society like ours. If the public became more engaged, our government would be forced to become more accountable and principled. In turn, better government would increase trust and confidence and make people more likely to participate in public life.

Alien Opinion 2004

We have certainly seen the opposite: a vicious cycle of official misconduct and public withdrawal, each reinforcing the other. The start of a modest upward spiral should be our goal. - Peter Levine

Alien Opinion 2004

* Sources: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, translated by G.D.H. Cole, revised edition (London: J.M. Dent), Book III, chapter 15 (p. 266); Book IV, chapter 1 (p. 274); James Fishkin, The Voice of the People: Public Opinion & Democracy (Yale University Press, 1995); Francis X, Clines, "'Ask Not ...' 'Military-Industrial Complex ...' 'but Fear Itself...,'" New York Times (September 23, 1996); Benjamin I. Page, Who Deliberates? Mass Media in Modern Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 1996), Esther Thorson, Lewis A. Friedland, and Peggy Anderson, "Civic Lessons: Report on a 1996 Evaluation of Four Civic Journalism Projects Funded by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism" (Pew Charitable Trusts, 1997); Sean Aday, "Does Civic Journalism Work? An Experimental Test Comparing the Effects of Civic and Conventional Journalism on Audience Attitudes, Cognitions, and Behavioral Intention," paper delivered at the University of South Carolina (October 12, 1998); John M. Holcomb, "Introduction" to the Foundation for Public Affairs' Public Interest Profiles (Foundation for Public Affairs, 1988-1989); Robert D. Putnam, "Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital," Journal of Democracy, vol. 6, no. 1 (January 1995); Lester M. Salamon, Holding the Center: America's Nonprofit Sector at a Crossroads (The Nathan Cummings Foundation, 1997), p. 27; James Fishkin, The Dialogue of Justice: Toward a Self-Reflective Society (Yale University Press, 1992); Steven J. Cann, Administrative Law (Sage Publications, 1995); Theodore J. Lowi, The End Of Liberalism: The Second Republic of the United States, 2d ed. (Norton, 1979); Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO v. American Petroleum Institute, 448 U.S. 607, at 677 (citing the Legislative History), 675; John Locke, Second Treatise on Government, section 141; 175 F.3rd 1027; 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 9064; Tom Wolfe, "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers," in Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970); Jo Clark, Watershed Partnerships: A Strategic Guide for Local Conservation Efforts in the West (Western Governors' Association, 1997); University of Colorado Natural Resources Law Center, The Watershed Source Book: Watershed-Based Solutions to Natural Resource Problems (1995); Mark Sagoff, "The View from Quincy Library: Civic Engagement in Environmental Problem Solving," in Civil Society, Democracy, and Civic Renewal, edited by Robert K. Fullinwider (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), pp. 151-183; Statement of Chairman Don Young (R-AK) during the Committee on Resources mark-up of the Quincy Library Group Community Stability Act (May 21, 1997), available at http:/; Joseph Bessette, The Mild Voice of Reason: Deliberative Democracy and American National Government (University of Chicago Press, 1994) (quoting John Adams).

Alien Opinion 2004


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