This site is a hub for the intellectual community of researchers and practitioners dedicated to building the emerging field of civic studies. An interdisciplinary field, civic studies seeks to understand and strengthen civic politics, initiatives, capacity, society and culture.
Like any vibrant intellectual community, civic studies encourages debate and disagreement, but it assumes some premises:
- Civic studies is the intellectual component of civic renewal, which is the movement to improve societies by engaging their citizens.
- The goal of civic studies is to develop ideas and ways of thinking helpful to citizens, understood as co-creators of their worlds. We do not define “citizens” as official members of nation-states or other political jurisdictions. Nor does this formula invoke the word “democracy.” One can be a co-creator in many settings, ranging from loose social networks and religious congregations to the globe. Not all of these venues are, or could be, democracies.
- Civic studies asks “What should we do?” It is thus inevitably about ethics (what is right and good?), about facts (what is actually going on?), about strategies (what would work?), and about the institutions that we co-create. Good strategies may take many forms and use many instruments, but if a strategy addresses the question “What should we do?”, then it must guide our own actions–it cannot simply be about how other people ought to act.
Learn more about civic studies through the below scholarly articles. Additionally, connect in person with other civic studies scholars through the the Summer Institute of Civic Studies and Frontiers of Democracy conference, which take place annually in July.
Civic Studies Volume
Civic Studies: Approaches to the Emerging Field is a volume co-edited by Peter Levine and Karol Edward Sołtan and published by Bringing Theory to Practice and the American Association of Colleges and Universities as the third in its Civic Series. It is available for free download (pdf) or for purchase at $10 for the volume. Contents:
- Part 1: Overview
- Part 2: The Art and Science of Association: The Indiana Workshop
- “Artisans of the Common Life: Building a Public Science of Civics,” by Filippo Sabetti
- “Citizenship, Political Competence, and Civic Studies: The Ostromian Perspective,” by Paul Dragos Aligica
- Part 3: Deliberative Participation
- “Deliberative Civic Engagement: Connecting Public Voices to Public Governance,” by Tina Nabatchi and Greg Munno
- “The Challenge of Promoting Civic Participation in Poor Countries” by Ghazala Mansuri and Vijayendra Rao
- Part 4: Public Work
- “Transforming Higher Education in a Larger Context: The Civic Politics of Public Work,” by Harry C. Boyte and Blase Scarnatti
- “Citizen-Centered Research for Civic Studies: Bottom Up, Problem Driven, Mixed Methods, Interdisciplinary,” by Sanford Schram
- “Public Sociology, Civic Education, and Engaged Research,” by Philip Nyden
The Good Society Journal and its Symposium on Civic Studies
The Good Society, published by Penn State University Press, is a journal of civic studies. It is edited by two Summer Institute of Civic Studies alumni, Joshua A. Miller and Matt Chick.
Vol. 22, No. 2, 2013 of The Good Society includes a symposium on the Summer Institute of Civic Studies. With one exception, all of the authors of the symposium articles are either teachers or alumni of the Summer Institute:
“The Summer Institute of Civic Studies An Introduction” by Karol Sołtan and Peter Levine
“Civic Studies: Fundamental Questions, Interdisciplinary Methods” by Alison K. Cohen, J. Ruth Dawley-Carr, Liza Pappas and Alison Staudinger
“Living Well Together: Citizenship, Education, and Moral Formation” by Elizabeth Gish and Paul Markham
“Civic Studies: Bringing Theory to Practice” by Katherine Kravetz
“Deliberation and Civic Studies” by Matt Chick
We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For
Written by Peter Levine, the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Tisch College, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America (Oxford University Press, 2013) applies civic studies to strengthening democracy in the United States. Chapter 2, “How to Think About Politics: Facts, Values, and Strategies,” argues for considering political issues from a civic studies perspective. Former Sen. Bob Graham writes, “As America has wallowed through an unprecedented decline in civic engagement, Peter Levine has been a lighthouse warning of the dangers of civic alienation. Now, he makes the encouraging case that although we will live for a while with the consequences of past mistakes, the worst of the storm is over. Professor Levine concludes with ten common sense strategies that can energize the people and their governmental institutions while preparing a new generation of Americans with the values and competencies to sustain our reinvigorated democracy.”
Photos on this site are courtesy of Jodi Hilton for Tufts University Photo.