A challenge to complacency and non participation in American politics
The Two Faces of Political Apathy
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Finalist for Transformational Politics Book Award, American Political Science Association, 1996
This inclusive study examines the extraordinarily high rates of political nonparticipation in the United States and the political, historical, institutional, and philosophical roots of such widespread apathy. To explain why individuals become committed to political apathy as a political role, Tom DeLuca begins by defining "the two faces of political apathy."
The first, rooted in free will, properly places responsibility for nonparticipation in the political process on individuals. Political scientists and journalists, however, too often overlook a second, more insidious face of apathya condition created by institutional practices and social and cultural structures that limit participation and political awareness. The public blames our most disenfranchised citizens for their own disenfranchisement. Apathetic citizens blame themselves.
DeLuca examines classic and representative explanations of non-participation by political analysts across a range of methodologies and schools of thought. Focusing on their views on the concepts of political power and political participation, he assesses current proposals for reform. He argues that overcoming the second face of apathy requires a strategy of "real political equality," which includes greater equality in the availability of political resources, in setting the political agenda, in clarifying political issues, and in developing a public sphere for more genuine democratic politics.
"The Two Faces of Political Apathy is an excellent book. Based on a penetrating and insightful analysis of key political conceptsincluding power, interest, participation, and depoliticalizationand conflicting theories of political apathy, Tom DeLuca presents a persuasive argument to explain the persistence of mass political passivity that grips the American polity. It is an ideal book for courses in political democracy and political theory."
"Tom DeLuca develops a brilliant exegesis of contemporary democratic theory in order to illuminate patterns of political participation and nonparticipation in the late twentieth century United States. More than that, he complements his deft probing of theory with a sustained examination of the bearing of power inequalities on nonparticipation, and a brave consideration of the impediments to reform posed by concentrated power."
Part I: Roots of Apathy
Part II: Explanations of Nonparticipation
Part III: Overcoming Apathy
Conclusion: Real Political Equality
Tom DeLuca is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Fordham College at Lincoln Center. He has been a long-time activist on local and national issues, especially nuclear arms control, and his op-ed pieces on politics have appeared in The New York Times, New York Newsday, The Nation, and The Progressive.