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American Democracy: Ver 2.0


At a Glance

“To Brandeis, as to Jefferson, the key to a successful democracy lies in the spirit, the vitality, the daring, the inventiveness of its citizens,” according to one historian.  Over the course of two centuries, the American citizenry has, episodically, reinvigorated the practice of formal and informal politics with innovative claims, and with new methods for making them.  Will new forms of political technology and social media reshape political life toward or away from our ideals of inventiveness, engagement, democracy, and freedom?  Starting with Louis Brandeis’s “True Americanism” address (Faneuil Hall, Boston, July 5, 1915), students will consider competing notions of citizenship and examples of social movements in the past and in today’s “new” age, seeking to connect their theoretical foundations and practical results to current experiments in making democracy work.

Through coursework and hands-on experience, students will master both the theoretical foundations of as well as the practical, lived experience of formal and informal American democratic institutions as they experiment with new political technologies - such as the Massachusetts state legislature, advocacy organizations such as Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, party insurgencies or protest movements such as the Tea Party and Occupy movement.  Others will focus directly on new experiments in political technology, such as Code for America.  Throughout, students will investigate whether current practices approach, approach or disappoint our normative, ideological, and/or theoretical expectations.