Beyond Left and Right: Breaking the Political Stalemate

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ICS Press, Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1993 - Community power - 221 pages
Two conflicting ideals animate American political debate: our rights as individuals and our responsibilities as members of society. From both conservatives and liberals we hear arguments for extremes of unrestrained individualism and suffocating statism. Do we all have the right to behave as we please, or must morality be legislated in the interests of the community? Should we be left on our own to succeed or fail financially, or should government shield us from risk (and control our pocketbooks)? In this penetrating book, A. Lawrence Chickering describes the breakdown in dialogue that underlies the crisis in American politics. Surveying major domestic concerns - economic justice, racial and sexual equality, protection of the environment - Chickering concludes that no effective response to these and other issues is possible until we resolve the larger dilemma of how to reconcile rights and responsibilities, freedom and order. Chickering faults both Republicans and Democrats for their preoccupation with the politics of the centralized state. Washington-based politics, he argues, has become hopelessly disputatious, corrupt, and remote from the concerns of America's people. It is "politics on the cheap", endless tinkering with the machine of centralized government, incapable of satisfying Americans' pervasive yearning for a society that inspires their willing and enthusiastic participation. How can we make politics work again? Beyond the tired programs of the left and right lies another option: a more consensual politics, built on self-governing institutions at the local and regional levels. Such institutions would empower citizens to work for the larger public good in all important areasof their lives. Beyond Left and Right introduces us to a new coalition of conservatives and liberals that is striving to build self-governing communities, especially in the stricken inner cities. This movement is strongly evident in efforts to reform education and low-income housing and is proposing new ideas in health care, law enforcement, and other areas. This is only the start, however: Chickering says that citizens, working together at the local and regional levels, can construct a just and responsive political system for the entire nation. This book offers optimism and hope. It points in a new direction - toward the freedom and sense of community that come with self-governance. Beyond Left and Right provides a basis for reviving America's political life and our aspirations for its future.

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Rethinking Basic Issues
Political Crisis and the Centralized State

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