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Mathews, David. Politics for People: Finding a Responsible Public Voice. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1994 (228 pp.). Mathews is president of the Kettering Foundation and regularly writes about community issues. Politics for People is about "Americans who are trying to create a politics that is relevant to their everyday concerns." Like others in this bibliography, 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 if we just get our act together. The book aims at injecting the public back into the policy dialogue by focusing on a different, non-expert approach what Mathews refers to as "choicework" based on deliberation, not debate. He says that "publics" are only created when people come together, not by governments, and that only publics can provide direction and political will. Mathews draws important distinctions between conventional politics, which is based on winning and solutions, and citizen politics, which concentrates on redefining problems and community empowerment. The initial part of the study is particularly helpful for its historical overview of how Americans got so cynical about politics and, conversely, why politicians view the public through equally negative lenses. Extremely readable, this book is a good introduction to civic engagement and its role in democratic America.


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