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American Democracy: From Tocqueville to Town Halls to Twitter, Andrew J. Perrin

Reviewed by Patrick Flavin

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If you asked 100 people to define “democracy,” you might receive 100 different answers. The bulk of those answers, however, would likely make some reference to laws or institutions such as popular elections, guaranteed civil liberties, or limits on government power. In his book, Andrew J. Perrin instead adopts a sociological approach and reminds the reader that democratic culture (the norms and practices that citizens establish for interacting with one another and their government) is an equally significant prerequisite for a healthy democracy.

The importance of democratic values and civil society is well documented in the political science scholarly literature, but Perrin does a tremendous service by breaking down a vast amount of information on democratic theory and practice into a digestible meal for interested readers. His central argument is that the cultural and social dynamics of democratic citizenship in the United States are vitally important and ignored at our own peril. The book begins with a far-reaching historical overview of voting, civil society, and citizenship that serves as a useful primer for beginning to think about democratic culture. It then moves to a discussion of how citizens interact within our democracy by formulating political opinions and sharing th

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