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The Seven Deadly Citizens: Moving From Civic Stereotypes to Well-Rounded Citizenship

“The Seven Deadly Citizens: Moving From Civic Stereotypes to Well-Rounded Citizenship” is an article written by Matt Leighninger and released in the November 2004 issue of The Good Society, a journal published by the Committee for the Political Economy of the Good Society (PEGS) and Penn State University Press.

Below is an excerpt from the publication. More information about the article can be found here.

American democracy seems to be going through a painful transition process. The symptoms of this shift include declining voter turnout, increasing mistrust of government, and contentious public meetings. Decisions over land use and the siting of public facilities are increasingly mired in lawsuits and “not in my backyard” arguments. Scandals involving the police, and other conflicts between residents and public employees, have become more common and more destructive.

These are not the death throes of democracy; our political system has been through many transitions, and it will continue to evolve as new crises and new conditions arise. The signs of the current shift can now be seen at the local level, where many community leaders are reaching out to citizens, trying to involve them in specific aspects of the political process. Civic experts at foundations and universities are encouraging these efforts by presenting visions of a revitalized American democracy, in which citizens and government have a more constructive relationship than they do today.

Many of these visions and initiatives fail because they do not provide holistic, realistic roles for citizens to play. They rely on one motivation for people to participate — one of seven limited definitions of citizenship — rather than providing different incentives which will appeal to different kinds of people. So citizen involvement efforts often falter because they are conducted on a piecemeal basis, and visions of a revitalized democracy seem utopian because they are based on far-fetched notions of what people are willing to do.

From The Good Society (2004) Vol. 13, Issue 2. Online at http://museweb01-pub.library.uq.edu.au/journals/good_society/summary/v013/13.2leighninger.html.

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