Books on Building Local Democracy
The Democracy Project, A History, a Crisis, a Movement
David Graeber, Penguin Books, 2014
Anthropologist David Graeber includes a well-written description of his participation in guiding New York's Occupy Movement, the best available description of how to make consensus work, and a section on anarchism that will convert the toughest critics.
The Rebirth of Urban Democracy
Jeff Berry, Kent Portney, Ken Thomson; Brookings, Washington, DC, 1993
Critics of participatory democracy will have a hard time dismissing this detailed study of five U.S. cities - Birmingham, Dayton, Portland, St. Paul, and San Antonio. The five were chosen because they actively involve citizens (as members of neighbourhood associations) in local policy and decision-making. The authors see the ability of citizens to affect local affairs as a way of strengthening the weak democracies of both Canada and the U.S., where the voice of citizens is limited to voting. Order The Rebirth of Urban Democracy
directly from Brookings Books, 202-797-6258.
The Spirit Level, Why Equality is Better for Everyone
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, 2010
The Spirit Level is a good book for a dark age. It summarizes hundreds of research projects on the impact of income inequality from different countries, and different states in the US. It shows almost everything is affected not by how wealthy a society is, but how equal it is. The bigger the better the gap between the rich and the poor the worse things are. The authors say in the preface they considered calling their book Evidence-Based Politics.
Coming to Public Judgment
Daniel Yankelovich, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 1991
Yankelovich, the father of modern polling, shows how to arrive at stable public opinion on a complex issue. Responses to polls are volatile and unreliable - often shifting radically with small changes to wording - if respondents have not examined the consequences of taking various positions on an issue. Stable public opinion requires time spent "working through" various options, what they entail, and their costs and benefits.
The collapse and revival of American community
Robert Putnam, Simon & Schuster, NY, 2000.
This is the classic text on the decline of social capital in North America. Charts and graphs show not only the decline of social capital, but how much better off everyone is with high levels of social capital. Although Putnam offers suggestions for reversing the decline, this is not a "how-to" book. For Putnam's original article check out the full text articles section of this website.
Busting Bureaucracy: How to Conquer Your Organization's Worst Enemy
Kenneth Johnston, Business One Irwin, 1993.
Johnston puts the experience of twenty years of fixing organizations into this book. He shows how most organizations suffer from the immobilizing symptoms of bureaucratic form devised to promote control, consistency and accountability during the early part of this century. Today it has become the chief cause of demoralized employees and poor corporate performance.
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