Cover image for Avoiding politics : how Americans produce apathy in everyday life
Avoiding politics : how Americans produce apathy in everyday life
Eliasoph, Nina.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, UK ; New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
x, 330 pages ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
JK1764 .E45 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Nina Eliasoph's vivid portrait of American civic life reveals an intriguing culture of political avoidance. Despite the importance for democracy of open-ended political conversation among ordinary citizens, many Americans try hard to avoid appearing to care about politics. To discover how, where and why Americans create this culture of avoidance, the author accompanied suburban volunteers, activists, and recreation club members for over two years, listening to them talk - and avoid talking - about the wider world, together and in encounters with government, media, and corporate authorities. She shows how citizens create and express ideas in everyday life, contrasting their privately expressed convictions with their lack of public political engagement. Her book challenges received ideas about culture, power and democracy, while exposing the hard work of producing apathy.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In this interesting and useful book, Eliasoph (sociology, Univ. of Wisconsin) examines the ways in which Americans "avoid politics" in their daily lives. Thus volunteer groups she observed consciously avoided addressing the political dynamics that shaped the need for volunteers in the first place and constructed their apolitical characters in cooperation with government institutions. Similarly, attendees at a local social club never confronted the racial, gender, and class-based stereotypes of fellow members in the name of "community" Only activist groups pursued a recognizably political agenda. Eliasoph carefully explores the many ways in which most citizens avoided becoming engaged--by shunning those who advanced political agendas, for example, or by making politics so complex and incomprehensible that participation becomes meaningless. Only two issues trouble the work: the author's attempt to protect her sources leads her to use terms such as, for example, "nuclear battleships" rather than the known terminology; and she never really explains why she expects members of a country-and-western dance club to engage political issues. Otherwise, it is an impressive examination of the crucial question of democracy: can there be democracy without citizens? Recommended at all levels. A. L. Crothers; Illinois State University

Table of Contents

1 The mysterious shrinking circle of concern
2 Volunteers trying to make the world make sense
3 'Close to home and for the children': trying really hard not to care
4 Humour, nostalgia and commercial culture in the postmodern public sphere
5 Creating ignorance and memorizing facts: how Buffaloes understood politics
6 Strenuous disengagement and cynical chic solidarity
7 Activists carving out a place in the public sphere for discussion
8 Newspapers and the cycle of political evaporation
9 The evaporation of politics in the US public sphere