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Archive for March 6, 2019

March 6, 2019 — Sidney Verba, 1932-2019

There are three books which have, more than any others, informed my worldview on public administration and civics.

One of these is The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. It was co-written by Sidney Verba, who died earlier this week. He and co-author Gabriel Almond oversaw about a thousand interviews with citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Mexico, in an attempt to ascertain what affects the political compact between the citizen and the government.

In this tome, and in later scholarship, he hit upon the concept of participation and “the citizen’s voice” as the driving force behind government and public administration.

In the last 20 years, with the proliferation of the Internet and social media as information sources, Verba’s thesis has been put to the test, especially with large money sources being poured into influencing elections on Facebook and YouTube. But with social media and crowdfunding creating a bumper crop of new faces in the U.S. House of Representatives (in comparison to the very white and very male Senate), the central question framing Vebra’s work remains as prescient as it was 55 years ago: “Whose voice is being heard by the government?”

Makes you wonder.