Books and essays on "being a citizen"
August 6, 2016 11:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on a personal research project (not connected to any school/work) and am looking for resources that expand on these two themes: "an informed citizenry" and "the responsibilities of the citizen in a democracy."

To expand on what I mean by "informed citizenry": I'm looking for resources that go into, say, the process and difficulties of informing oneself, the difficulties involved in trying to make a population informed, the role different information sources (social media, mass media, experts...) play in that process, why it's important for people to be informed, etc.
Above all, what I really feel I am lacking in my current research is perspectives on how 'informed' we can reasonably expect ourselves and our fellow citizens to be, and, in particular, how subject matter influences that decision (should we take a different approach to informing ourselves when it comes to foreign policy versus economics versus social issues)?

To expand on what I mean by the "responsibilities of the citizen": what are the responsibilities a citizen has in a democracy, beyond simply voting now and then? I don't mean just stuff like jury duty, but the implied responsibilities, like being informed, or pressuring your elected representatives, or convincing fellow citizens to be on your side on a particular issue, et cetera.
I haven't done much reading on this subject. It sort of formed as an off-shoot of the first subject (I figured how informed a person needs to be depends on how much responsibility that person is expected to have), so anything is welcome.

Looking for anything from ancient political philosophy to a well-written blog post, but it must be reasonably accessible to a college-educated layman (i.e. I shouldn't need a master's in the subject to understand it). I am a student with access to a lot of resources through my university's library, so paywalls hopefully shouldn't be an issue in most cases.

I'm casting a very wide net, so a book on, say, the psychology of how humans process information would certainly qualify as being of interest.

Thanks so much!
posted by perplexion to Law & Government (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Vermont Owners Manual is a good look at what it takes to be a citizen in Vermont. We have (some) direct democracy so it talks about your responsibilities to go to town meeting and how you get information and that sort of thing. Can be a bit tough to scare up outside of Vermont but well worth it if you can find it.
posted by jessamyn at 11:24 AM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

In The Hands Of The People: The Trial Jury's Origins, Triumphs, Troubles, and Future in American Democracy by William Dwyer is a thoughtful take on the importance of the jury system.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 4:23 PM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

For the U.S., you'll probably want to start with de Tocqueville.
posted by praemunire at 5:29 PM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try searching for citizenship and related terms along with "syllabus." That way you net various university-level courses designed to investigate some of the questions you are interested in. E.g. (more or less at random) this one from Fordham.

If you get a better sense of what you want you could add search terms related to discipline: gender and women's studies, political theory, political philosophy, critical theory, political psychology, political anthropology, intellectual history, etc etc.
posted by col_pogo at 5:11 PM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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