The New England Town Meeting and How It Works
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.
1. Introduction: The Methodology of Starting from Scratch
2. Town Meeting: An American Conversation
3. Democracy as Public Presence: Walking the Bounds
4. Attendance: The Architecture of Governance
5. Attendance: The Context of Community
6. Democracy as Public Talk: Walking the Bounds
7. Democracy as Public Talk: Exploring the Contexts
8. The Question of Equality: Women's Presence
9. The Question of Equality: Women's Participation
10. If You Build It, Let Them Play
11. The Best Democracy, the Worst Democracy
12. Conclusion: A Lovers' Quarrel