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[H]ealthy civic relationships are not sustained on goodwill alone. People keep them alive by doing the difficult political work of recognizing the hard choices they face and by struggling, together, to find a way forward that everyone can live with.
Michael Brian

Readings: Public Trust


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Public Trust Readings

This bibliography includes literature specific to the "Public Trust" Program area, which CHG considers essential to developing understanding, civic participation, and community pride.

For the complete Readings page click here.

Barber, Benjamin. An Aristocracy of Everyone: The Politics of Education and the Future of America. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1992 (307 pp.). Barber tackles educational issues such as multiculturalism, political correctness, teaching the canon – topics we’ve probably read about enough. But the real contribution of this book is Barber’s assertion that schools must emphasize democracy and community-building. MORE

Barber, Benjamin. Jihad vs. McWorld: How the Planet Is Both Falling Apart and Coming Together and What This Means for Democracy. New York: Random House, 1995 (381 pp.). Although global in its outlook, this work has implications for any organization or community interested in civil society and civic participation. MORE

Bellah, Robert, et al. The Good Society. New York: Vintage, 1991 (347 pp.). This follow-up to 1985’s Habits of the Heart discusses how institutions can address and help to nourish the idea of community in America – from political, religious, economic, and educational points of view. MORE

Bellah, Robert, et al. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. New York: Harper & Row, 1985 (355 pp.). This mid-80s study is rightly so one of the most discussed of the early communitarian works. Habits examines the American character, suggesting that our original republican and biblical traditions have been largely undermined by putting individual concerns before the common good. MORE

Briand, Michael. Practical Politics: Five Principles for a Community That Works. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1999 (238 pp.). Long-time community activist Brian explains in clear terms, with many examples and ample direction, five principles for reinvigorating civic participation in communities: inclusion, comprehension, deliberation, cooperation, realism. It’s both conceptual and highly practical – a great place to begin to work of self-government.

Coontz, Stephanie. The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. New York: Basic Books, 1992 (400 pp.). The decline of community has caused many to blame the situation on the collapse of the nuclear family; thus, we hear a lot of noise about "getting back to family values." For those who might advocate that solution, Cootz asks, "What family values are you talking about, because they never existed as you remember them." MORE

Etzioni, Amitai. The Spirit of Community. New York: Crown Publishers, 1993 (323 pp.). Etzioni is the communitarians’ principal spokesperson, and this is one of the early bibles of their philosophy. He is trying to find a balance between individual rights and the common good, and he thinks the pendulum has drifted too far toward a rights-based society. MORE

Greider, William. The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003 (366 pp.). Greider's analysis joins the growing number of voices calling for a new understanding of what "success" looks like for capitalism. Rather than toss out the benefits that capitalism has brought to many citizens, he asks us to build on this solid infrastructure, yet add a social dimension that is missing in most economic calculations. In other words, similar to books such as Savitz's The Triple Bottom Line, Greider includes social and environmental ingredients in his evaluation of capitalism's success. His approach also depends on civic engagement, since he believes most corporations and governments are unable, or unwilling, to imagine a different economic system. Highly recommended, filled with many best practices.

Hart, Stuart. Capitalism at the Crossroads: Aligning Business, Earth, and Humanity, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing, 2007 (260 pp.). While this book focuses more on developing sustainable business practices in the third world, or what Hart refers to as the Base of the Pyramid (BoP), where more than four billion people live on less than a dollar a day, the principles that underlie his strategies are no less relevant for any community or commercial enterprise hoping to create sustainable programs that go "beyond greening." Of particular interest is Hart's insistence that businesses "become indigenous," that is, that they listen to and incorporate the voices and values of local people, so new commercial enterprises are driven from the ground up, rather than the typical corporate top-down approach.

Hunter, James Davison. Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. New York: Basic Books, 1991 (416 pp.). This lengthy sociological study looks at the forces that divide America into political, social, moral, and religious factions. Would be helpful for communities trying to encourage civic dialog among groups with opposing value systems. MORE

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961 (458 pp.). Although she’s gone on to write many other books on the nature of cities, economies, and civilization in general, Jacobs’ Death and Life is still required reading for anyone interested in the shape of communities. Most of her observations and recommendations have been validated by contemporary planners; the New Urbanists, in particular, often sound like Jane Jacobs updated. It’s amazing how prescient this New York neighborhood activist was.

Kemmis, Daniel. Community and the Politics of Place. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1990 (150 pp.). The former mayor of Missoula, Kemmis focuses most of his insights on the notion of "place" – what he has called "bio-regionalism." In his view, one’s commitment to the common good begins with a sense of place, and he makes a strong case that understanding one’s history and heritage is central to healthy communities. MORE

Lakoff, George. Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004 (124 pp.). Sure, Lakoff's surprising underground classic is intended for progressive policy makers – providing strategies and techniques to help them overcome the conservative agenda. Be that as it may, the slim volume should be consulted by anyone involved in community politics, because it helps us understand the concept of “framing” debate. According to the author, “Reframing is changing the way the public sees the world,” and he uses explosive issues like abortion, taxes, the environment, and school vouchers to illustrate how “framing” the conservation helps activists (on either side) generate the answers that fit their agenda. A professor of linguistics, Lakoff shows that it's not enough to have reason, proof, or right arguments on your side; you also need to position the debate within the most appropriate context.

Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: W.W. Norton, 1979 (282 pp.). Long before other social critics complained about "me-ism" in modern America, or the so-called radical individualism that threatens the greater good, Lasch was exposing similar conditions, but at a much deeper level. MORE

Mathews, David. Politics for People: Finding a Responsible Public Voice. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1994 (228 pp.). Mathews writes about "Americans who are trying to create a politics that is relevant to their everyday concerns." Like others, he notes that associations, forums, and other opportunities for people to come together to address the issues are more important and powerful than "official" political frameworks. MORE

Phillips, Derek. Looking Backward: A Critical Appraisal of Communitarian Thought. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1993 (248 pp.). For people who get carried away with the nostalgia of the "good old days" when something like "community," "neighborliness," and unspoken "social contracts" existed, here’s a study to give them pause. MORE

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin Books, 1985 (184 pp.). Ostensibly about the way television and other mass media rob us of our humanity, this book is really about how television’s pervasive influence affects the way we talk to one another, conduct public affairs, and build community. MORE

Putnam, Robert. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000 (541 pp.). A follow-up book to the 1995 famous essay of the same title, Putnam’s lengthy study looks at the nature of public participation in America – the causes for its decline as well as some practical solutions. Putnam’s research into urban design suggests sprawl is not conducive to community-building.

Putnam, Robert. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1993 (258 pp.). Before Bowling Alone this book suggested many of the same points. After studying several regions in Italy for more than two decades, the author concludes that associations, trust, and other forms of "social capital" are central to the survival of strong communities.

Roseland, Mark. Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers, 1998 (240 pp.). This new edition of Roseland’s previous volume of nearly the same title provides many more resources for communities, especially since the advent of the Internet and the wealth of information one can find there. Filled with best practices from around the world, Toward Sustainable Communities is an excellent beginner’s tool for places looking to develop more sustainable policies. MORE

Savitz, Andrew. The Triple Bottom Line. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2006 (300 pp.). The sustainable, place-enhancing development that CHG advocates can certainly benefit from a “Triple Bottom Line” approach to development and reporting – accounting not only for the financial bottom line, but social and environmental bottom lines as well. TBL thinking has been around for decades, often characterized as “sustainable development” or covered in movements like “corporate social responsibility.” The term “triple bottom line” was coined in 1998, and Savitz's book nicely outlines the evolution of TBL thinking, at the same time it provides practical suggestions for incorporating the approach into one's development models. There is little doubt TBL will become a more important factor in the management of communities, businesses, and corporations, simply because more and more people recognize the economy does not exist separate from the environment or the society in which it operates. This is a good book to familiarize yourself with the TBL philosophy, a trend CHG fully embraces.

Schneider, Anne Larason and Helen Ingram. Policy Design for Democracy. Lawrence: Univ. of Kansas Press, 1997 (241 pp.). Political scientists Schneider and Ingram argue that little attention has been paid by scholars to the actual design of democracy – specifically, the way policies are created, discussed, implemented, and monitored. They charge that most policies benefit a privileged class, but it is the “design,” not so much the policies themselves, that leads elected officials and governments to continue this mostly unfair activity. Perhaps the most useful part of the text for community planners is the authors' notion of social construction – that policies, people, and events are “constructed” by agreement, and this social contract affects the way policies are created and implemented. They also call for less scientific, utilitarian approaches to policy, which is controlled primarily by “experts,” and more personal, unempirical direction and input from the general public.  

Schön, Donald A. and Martin Rein. Frame Reflection: Toward the Resolution of Intractable Public Controversies. New York: Basic Books, 1994 (247 pp.). While this text is intended primarily for public policy analysts and those who teach public policy, there are implications here for broader public approaches to policy issues. MORE

Sirianni, Carmen and Lewis Friedland. Civic Innovation in America: Community Empowerment, Public Policy, and the Movement for Civic Renewal. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2001 (371 pp.). Anyone interested in public participation should consult this book, which is a history of the contemporary civic engagement movement, beginning primarily in the 1960s. Sirianni and Friedland, professors of sociology and journalism, respectively, provide a detailed account of how and why communities are turning to citizens to address today's troubling issues, from environmental degradation to health care. In the process they provide many case studies and best practices, and they feature numerous scholarly and research organizations around the nation that are working to promote effective public participation. Following an extensive overview of engagement since the 1960s, the book looks at the movement from three perspectives: the environment, health care, and journalism. In each case, the authors demonstrate how organizations are turning outward to the public – discarding the older “expert only” approach. The journalism section examines the growing “public journalism” movement, which is still debated among practitioners. The book concludes with a call for more public engagement and transparency in other sectors. Scholars, activists, and practitioners will all find the examples and historical context useful.    

Yankelovich, Daniel. Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World. Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1991 (290 pp). Yankelovich’s findings and his conclusions have many worthwhile implications for those trying to build healthy communities. The book is concerned, most of all, with how the public moves from mass opinion to what he calls "public judgment." MORE

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