Virtual book club to explore civil discourse, political deliberation

July 31, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — At a time when the U.S. feels more polarized than ever and confidence in government institutions is declining, John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch suggest that reasoned political discussion and civic engagement are still possible — and can help citizens feel more connected to political processes.

Gastil, distinguished professor of communication arts and sciences and political science at Penn State, and Knobloch, assistant professor of communication studies at Colorado State University, are the authors of “Hope for Democracy: How Citizens Can Bring Reason Back Into Politics.” The book is the August selection for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy’s virtual book club.

“Hope for Democracy” by Penn State's John Gastil and Colorado State's Katherine Knobloch is the August selection for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy's virtual book club. A discussion with the authors will be held Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. in Zoom.

“Hope for Democracy” by Penn State's John Gastil and Colorado State's Katherine Knobloch is the August selection for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy's virtual book club. A discussion with the authors will be held Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. in Zoom.

IMAGE: Penn State

“Hope for Democracy” recognizes the primary problems that plague contemporary democracy and offers a solution. It tells the story of one civic innovation, the Citizens' Initiative Review (CIR), which asks a small group of citizens to analyze a ballot measure and then provide recommendations on that measure for the public to use when voting.

The book relies on narratives of the civic reformers who developed and implemented the CIR and the citizens who participated in the initial review. Coupled with extensive research, the book uses these stories to describe how the review came into being and what impacts it has on participants and the public.

A book club discussion with the authors will be held at 4 p.m. on Aug. 31 on Zoom. All members of the Penn State community are welcome to attend. The event will start with a general question-and-answer session, then move into smaller breakout group discussions.

As with any book club, reading the entire book is not required to participate in the discussion. Gastil and Knobloch were recently interviewed on the McCourtney Institute’s Democracy Works podcast, where they explained some of the book’s main themes and how its framework applies to current conversations about polarization and political discourse.

For more information about the book club and to RSVP for a discussion, visit democracy.psu.edu/book. A Zoom link will be sent to all registrants in advance of the event.

Last Updated July 31, 2020