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Relying on an astounding collection of more than three decades of firsthand research, Frank M. Bryan examines one of the purest forms of American democracy, the New England town meeting. At these meetings, usually held once a year, all eligible citizens of the town may become legislators; they meet in face-to-face assemblies, debate the issues on the agenda, and vote on th Relying on an astounding collection of more than three decades of firsthand research, Frank M. Bryan examines one of the purest forms of American democracy, the New England town meeting. At these meetings, usually held once a year, all eligible citizens of the town may become legislators; they meet in face-to-face assemblies, debate the issues on the agenda, and vote on them. And although these meetings are natural laboratories for democracy, very few scholars have systematically investigated them. A nationally recognized expert on this topic, Bryan has now done just that. Studying 1,500 town meetings in his home state of Vermont, he and his students recorded a staggering amount of data about them—238,603 acts of participation by 63,140 citizens in 210 different towns. Drawing on this evidence as well as on evocative "witness" accounts—from casual observers to no lesser a light than Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—Bryan paints a vivid picture of how real democracy works. Among the many fascinating questions he explores: why attendance varies sharply with town size, how citizens resolve conflicts in open forums, and how men and women behave differently in town meetings. In the end, Bryan interprets this brand of local government to find evidence for its considerable staying power as the most authentic and meaningful form of direct democracy. Giving us a rare glimpse into how democracy works in the real world, Bryan presents here an unorthodox and definitive book on this most cherished of American institutions.


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Relying on an astounding collection of more than three decades of firsthand research, Frank M. Bryan examines one of the purest forms of American democracy, the New England town meeting. At these meetings, usually held once a year, all eligible citizens of the town may become legislators; they meet in face-to-face assemblies, debate the issues on the agenda, and vote on th Relying on an astounding collection of more than three decades of firsthand research, Frank M. Bryan examines one of the purest forms of American democracy, the New England town meeting. At these meetings, usually held once a year, all eligible citizens of the town may become legislators; they meet in face-to-face assemblies, debate the issues on the agenda, and vote on them. And although these meetings are natural laboratories for democracy, very few scholars have systematically investigated them. A nationally recognized expert on this topic, Bryan has now done just that. Studying 1,500 town meetings in his home state of Vermont, he and his students recorded a staggering amount of data about them—238,603 acts of participation by 63,140 citizens in 210 different towns. Drawing on this evidence as well as on evocative "witness" accounts—from casual observers to no lesser a light than Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—Bryan paints a vivid picture of how real democracy works. Among the many fascinating questions he explores: why attendance varies sharply with town size, how citizens resolve conflicts in open forums, and how men and women behave differently in town meetings. In the end, Bryan interprets this brand of local government to find evidence for its considerable staying power as the most authentic and meaningful form of direct democracy. Giving us a rare glimpse into how democracy works in the real world, Bryan presents here an unorthodox and definitive book on this most cherished of American institutions.

35 review for Real Democracy: The New England Town Meeting and How It Works

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I'm not sure why more political scientists don't read and cite this book. Lots of great insights on what real democracy looks like. Fantastic example of how good writing and social science are not incompatable. Read the footnotes. I'm not sure why more political scientists don't read and cite this book. Lots of great insights on what real democracy looks like. Fantastic example of how good writing and social science are not incompatable. Read the footnotes.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John Gastil

    There has been too little detailed research on the New England Town Meeting. Sure, it's a bit obscure, as democratic institutions go. That's too bad because the Town Meeting really is a national treasure and central to our nation's conception of democracy. Notice how often the "town meeting" term is invoked, whether at a public meeting held by a member of Congress or as part of an innovative new process, such as the 21st Century Town Meetings created by the (now defunct) AmericaSpeaks. If you wan There has been too little detailed research on the New England Town Meeting. Sure, it's a bit obscure, as democratic institutions go. That's too bad because the Town Meeting really is a national treasure and central to our nation's conception of democracy. Notice how often the "town meeting" term is invoked, whether at a public meeting held by a member of Congress or as part of an innovative new process, such as the 21st Century Town Meetings created by the (now defunct) AmericaSpeaks. If you want to understand how these meetings operate (and their history), this volume is a must-read. It has much praise for these meetings, but it also shows the wide variance in how different towns use this structure (for good and bad). Sure, there are more recent articles and such, but this really is an essential part of such a reading list.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    The most romantic book about Vermont ever written

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eric Kysela

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gerard A. Hauser

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    Jared

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    Amy

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    Nate

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    Janet Biehl

  10. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

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    Dan

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    Chris Leone

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

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    Samantha

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    Michael Baldwin

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    Coyle

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    Eric

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    William

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    Matt

  21. 5 out of 5

    A

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    David Barrie

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    Nico Macdonald

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    Paul Rubin

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    Chris

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    Rob Weir

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    Susan Grodsky

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    Shawn

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    Jessie

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    David

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    JD

  35. 4 out of 5

    Kate

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