back to meeting on politics page >

We have created a list of related and readings which is available either as a direct link or a downloadable PDF document. Please note that while we have tried to maintain the links to most of these readings, some of the links might not work.

Note: this is only a description of some of the issues and ideas considered. For our official set of recommendations, see our BetterTogether report.

Putnam, Robert. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon and Schuster: New York, NY, 2000. [especially chapter 2]

NEW: Michael Cornfield's fascinating book, Politics Moves Online describes the potential impact of technology on politics and civics engagement.
Also click here for the transcript of an interesting conversation with Michael Cornfield et al. on politics and technology.

There are also more books on politics and technology on the page of interesting technology readings.

NEW: Thomas Frank's very interesting book, What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America analyzes how the Republicans have done a better job of appealing to values interests of conservative heartland voters, often about issues that government is relatively powerless to change.

The Why of Political Disengagement

Carney, Eliza Newlin “Opting Out of Politics.” National Journal (1/17/98): 106-111.

Center for the Study of Political Psychology. “A Selected Review of Trends and Influences of Civic Participation.” University of Minnesota, 1997. pp. 1-59.

Ganz, Marshall. “Voters in the Crosshairs: How Technology and the Market are Destroying Politics.” The American Prospect 16 (Winter 1994): 100-109.

Levin-Waldman, Oren M. “The Political Consequences of Declining Unionism.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Sept 1, 1997, Op-Ed page).

Politics: The L.A./California Context

Davis, Mike. City of Quartz. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. see especially pp. 153-219.

Meyerson, Harold. “Falling Down.” The New Republic (May 3, 1993): 12.
______“Take The Initiative Please.” LA Weekly (October 25-31, 1996): 34.
______"The Player." LA Weekly (November 28, 1997):10.


Structure of Government and Political Participation: Charter Reform/Succession/Neighborhood Councils/Empowerment Congress

Barrett, Beth. “Grassroots Movement May Provide Model for Neighborhood Representation in L.A.” Daily News (November 24, 1996): 1, 13.

Berry, Jeffrey M., Kent Portnoy, and Ken Thomson. The Rebirth of American Democracy. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1993. see especially pp. 1-15, 46-53, 284-299.

City of Los Angeles Charter Reform Commission. “Reforming the LA City Charter.” (Sept 1997 and Nov. 1997): see especially 3-5, 31-33, A4-A6.

Hill-Holtzman, Nancy and Hugo Martin. “Tax Study Stokes Debate on Secession.” LA Times (Saturday, January 3, 1998). See: SECED/t000001422.html

Husock, Howard. “Let’s Break Up the Big Cities.” City Journal (Winter 1998): 71-87.

Kayden, Xandra. “Little Details That Valley Secessionists Would Rather Forget.” LA Times (Sunday, November 23, 1997): 6.
______ “Changing Rules: LA Stumbles Over the Premises of a Time Long Past.” LA Times (Sunday, April 15, 1990): M5.
______“Neighborhood Councils: Are They What L.A. Really Needs?” LA Times (Sunday, May 25, 1997): M6.
______“A Political Machine That Creates a Sense of Belonging.” LA Times (Sunday, March 10, 1996): 6.

Meyerson, Harold. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being LA.” LA Weekly (May 24-30, 1996): 16.

Technology and Politics

Kollock, Peter. “The Economics of Online Cooperation: Gifts and Public Goods in Cyberspace.” In P. Kollock and M. Smith (eds.), Communities in Cyberspace (forthcoming). See:

Varley, Pamela. “Electronic Democracy.” Technology Review (November/December 1991): 42-51.

Westen, Tracy. “Can Technology Save Democracy?” National Civic Review 87, No. 1, (Spring 1998): 47-56.

Deliberative Dialogue

Mattson, Kevin. “A Critical Study of Civic Deliberation and the Political Process.” The Kettering Foundation, August 1997.


Richard A. Couto, Catherine S. Guthrie,
Making Democracy Work Better: Mediating Structures,
Social Capital, and the Democratic Prospect


The Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America - Harvard Kennedy School of Government
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, Phone: 617-495-1148 - FAX: 617-495-1589
Copyright © 2012 The President and Fellows of Harvard College