In his award-winning book, Attention Deficit Democracy: The Paradox of Civic Engagement (2011) , Associate Professor of Political Science Ben Berger says handwringing about political apathy is as old as democracy itself.
"People always pay much less attention to politics than idealists and very engaged practitioners think they ought to do," says Berger, an expert in modern political theory . "To say 'democracy' is to say 'attention deficit,'" he adds, noting that Aristophanes complained about apathy in ancient Greece, as did Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s. "The key," he says, "is to understand the reasons for political inattention and then respond creatively to the root causes."
Berger's book received the North American Society for Social Philosophy (NASSP) Book Award for best social philosophy book published in 2011. Previous winners have included Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and leading political theorists such as G.A. Cohen, Will Kymlicka, and Seyla Benhabib. In addition, Zócalo Public Square, a project of the Center for Social Cohesion that focuses on citizenship and community, included it on its list of best nonfiction of 2011. Berger also discussed Attention Deficit Democracy on WHYY's Radio Times as part of a larger conversation about the national political scene. Listen to the complete program.
Berger is one of 26 Periclean Faculty Leaders nationwide and directs the College's "Engaging Democracy Project," a program designed to promote community engagement, political participation and responsible citizenship in the classroom, on campus, and in the wider community. In one of his courses, students augment their traditional classroom learning by meeting with civic leaders, visiting town hall and school board meetings, and interning with political or public interest organizations in order to understand better the daily experience of democracy in different types of communities.