The authors of the book A New Engagement provide the analysis of changing political attitudes of Americans and the degrees of their participation in public life. The authors were trying to answer two major questions: what the nature of the notion “civic engagement” is and what kinds of participation are the best ones. In order to obtain a deeper understanding of the issue, the distinction between political engagement and civic engagement should be drawn. The authors introduce their understanding of this distinction in one of the opening chapters of the book. According to them, the term “political engagement” refers to any kind of the activity aimed at influencing the process of decision-making on governmental level, whereas the term “civic engagement” comprises different kinds of activities aimed at public good and not necessarily connected to the political realm (Zukin et al, 2006, p.51). Thus, the term “civic engagement” should be understood in a broader sense as it refers to citizens’ participation in public life in general. At the same time, the term “political engagement” has a more narrow meaning as it refers mainly to political activities and actions that can influence governmental policies. Solving community problems or volunteering can serve as the examples of civic engagement; and voting or working for a party can illustrate the term “political engagement”. Drawing a clear distinction between these two terms is a necessary premise for understanding the nature of public engagement in general and, as a consequence, for understanding the portrait of a certain society – in this case, of American society. As it appears, lack of political activity does not necessarily mean political apathy – in some cases it is simply replaced by different kinds of public activity. Therefore, decline in interest to politics observed among the young can be treated as an evidence of changing attitudes and types of participation and not as a proof of growing apathy. Thus, the authors of A New Engagement made their contribution into the understanding of the political and civic life of American society.
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