The Civil Citizen

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Considerable concern is focused nowadays on young Americans’ civic engagement. “Civic engagement” is often used as a catch-all term to refer to a wide array of civic and political activities, but this term misses civil citizenship. This article draws on interviews I conducted with thirty-five young American professionals to explore what they think constitutes a “good citizen.” What emerges from their answers is less a political or civic citizen than a civil citizen whose polite individualism, proximate reach and facile, fleeting engagement may help explain younger Americans’ weaker political engagement.