Today, Americans are simultaneously skeptical of and engaged with political life. How does widespread cynicism affect the culture of civic participation? What are the implications for democracy? This study synthesizes data from a one-year collective ethnography of seven civic groups and theoretical work on boundary making, ambiguity, and role distancing. The authors find skepticism generates "disavowal of the political," a cultural idiom that allows people to creatively constitute what they imagine to be appropriate forms of engagement. Disavowal generates taboos, and the authors show how disdain for conflict and special interests challenges activism around inequality. Political disavowal both facilitates and constrains civic engagement in an era of political skepticism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science