Citizens of modern democracies are desperate for a potential philosophy that provides practical answers to the problems of the twenty-first century. Drawing on the wisdom of past and present pragmatist thinkers, Judith M. Green maps a contemporary form of citizenship that emphasizes participation and cooperation and reclaims the critical role of social movements and nonprofits. Her framework rests on the empowering potential of storytelling, truth and reconciliation processes, and collaborative vision-questing, cooperative acts that allow individuals to give voice and meaning to their trauma. From this "second strand" of the democratic experience, leaders and participating citizens can shape a more desirable democratic future.
Beginning with William James, John Dewey, Jane Adams, and Martin Luther King Jr., among others, Green shows how early American thinkers framed a pragmatic approach to emerging realities and possibilities, growing wells of shared truths, multifaceted histories, and mutually transformative experiences of citizenship. She then adds the insights of James Baldwin, Viktor Frankl, Elie Wiesel, Cornel West, and other contemporary thinkers, locating four sites in which citizens can actively effect change: the government, civic organizations, issue-focused campaigns, and related social movements. Green's philosophy shows how citizens can not only revive but also deepen the democratic experience by drawing on their own knowledge and capabilities and by reawakening their activist spirit and sense of shared social hope. According to Green, civic participation is the best antidote to feelings of helplessness and guilt, and its opportunities for multiethnic collaboration contrast sharply with an ethnocentric rejection of shared truths and causes.