The Search for Political Community: American Activists Reinventing Commitment

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Cambridge University Press, Sep 19, 1996 - Political Science - 279 pages
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This book challenges the myth that Americans' emphasis on personal fulfilment necessarily weakens commitment to the common good. Drawing on extensive participant-observation with a variety of environmentalist groups, Paul Lichterman argues that individualism sometimes enhances public, political commitment and that a shared respect for individual inspiration enables activists with diverse political backgrounds to work together. This personalised culture of commitment has sustained activists working long-term for social change. The book contrasts 'personalised politics' in mainly white environmental groups with a more traditional, community-centred culture of commitment in an African-American group. The untraditional, personalised politics of many recent social movements invites us to rethink common understandings of commitment, community, and individualism in a post-traditional world.
  

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Contents

Personalism and political commitment
1
Personalized politics the case of the US Greens
30
Speaking out in suburbia
71
Imagining community organizing community
105
Culture class and lifeways of activism
146
Personalized politics and cultural radicalism since the 1960s
182
The search for political community
213
Choosing and studying the organizations
231
Why participantobservation was necessary
237
Notes
243
References
261
Index
272
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About the author (1996)

Paul Lichterman has been Assistant and Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is now Associate Professor of Sociology and Religion at the University of Southern California. He is the author of "The Search for Political Community: American Activists Reinventing Commitment.

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