Do-It-Yourself Democracy: The Rise of the Public Engagement Industry
Caroline W. Lee
In Do-It-Yourself Democracy, sociologist Caroline W. Lee examines how participatory innovations have reshaped American civic life over the past two decades. Lee looks at the public engagement industry that emerged to serve government, corporate, and nonprofit clients seeking to gain a handle on the increasingly noisy demands of their constituents and stakeholders. New technologies and deliberative practices have democratized the ways in which organizations operate, but Lee argues that they have also been marketed and sold as tools to facilitate cost-cutting, profitability, and other management goals – and that public deliberation has burdened everyday people with new responsibilities without delivering on its promises of empowerment.
“At a time when paralysis plagues professional politics, this fascinating book takes us deep into a parallel universe. Here, under the watchful eyes of professional deliberation managers, citizens negotiate with one another to make the hard choices their elected representatives so often duck. This book reminds us that when governments fail, citizens will seek democracy elsewhere – and that for all the rhetoric of do-it-yourself empowerment, there’s no guarantee they’ll find it. A mesmerizing and ultimately frightening read.” -Fred Turner, author of The Democratic Surround
“A fresh and fascinating look at participatory democracy today. As Caroline Lee demonstrates, we’ve come a long way from the 1960s. Now, the Obama administration supports the efforts, civic leaders endorse them, and corporations underwrite them. Lee gets to the heart of the matter by focusing on the wizards behind the democratic curtain – the professionals who organize participatory events. Do-It-Yourself Democracy is, in turn, idealistic, moving, personal, deeply researched, elegantly written, skeptical, wise, and highly recommended.” -James A. Morone, author of The Devils We Know