Having organized neighborhood discussion groups before World War I, Follett traces the dynamics she noticed in these forums and develops some core concepts useful for those working on questions of public deliberation today. She also shows how deliberation informs debates that raged in political theory during her own era. She discusses the works of pluralists (Harold Laski), idealists (T. H. Green and Bernard Bosanquet), and pragmatists (William James) and makes important arguments about the relationship between socialism and democracy. Her work is marked by rigorous thinking about the implications of democratic principles as they relate to political and socioeconomic organization.
This book articulates the formation of a “new state” growing out of the local activities of citizens and renews the American idea of "federalism" in order to balance local activities and national purposes. By doing this, Follett leaves us with a pathbreaking work that demands more attention today. With preliminary essays by Benjamin Barber and Jane Mansbridge, plus a historical introduction provided by Kevin Mattson, this reissued edition will be of use to scholars and activists who are currently working on issues of democratic participation, civic education, and public deliberation.
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Known mostly for her pioneering work in managerial theory, Mary Parker Follett (1868–1933) was also an astute political theorist. In The New State (1918), she wrote a classic work in democratic political theory. Her vision of citizens gathering into neighborhood centers and engaging in civic dialogue continues to inform recent calls to strengthen American democracy from below. Next to John Dewey's The Public and Its Problems (1927), The New State stands as one of the most important political works that grew out of the Progressive Era in American history.
Benjamin R. Barber holds the Walt Whitman Chair of Political Science at Rutgers University and is Director of the Walt Whitman Center for the Culture and Politics of Democracy there.
Jane Mansbridge is Professor of Government at Harvard University.
Kevin Mattson is Director of Research at the Walt Whitman Center and author of Creating a Democratic Public (Penn State, 1998).Review:
“By reading Follett with the hindsight of 80 years experience, we can measure our progress, in the case of education; or where we seem to have lost our way, as in criminal justice. . . . It is only in the risking, participating personally and fully in a challenging democratic activity, that we fulfill ourselves as persons—and as citizens. Thomas Jefferson saw this from a viewpoint of political stability, Hannah Arendt from the perspective of political philosophy, and Follett from the individual, personal perspective. It is a message which the comfortable do not appreciate.”
—Robert Cunningham, Journal of Organizational Change Management
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