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Abstract

While it is true that the most recent presidential election cycle highlighted deeply rooted divisions lying in our American democracy, there is more to this separation than politics. Globalization and polarization have acted as catalysts, in part, to the decline of neighborliness and citizenship in America. I argue that a return to the “public” sphere in local communities can remedy this. This paper tests this theory by strategically selecting public policies and civic engagement activities that attempt to accomplish this goal of returning to the public and evaluating them on their ability to do so.

There are important questions about improving citizenship and neighborliness and how both are related that will be explored. Ultimately, if a return to the public sphere is the best way to heal a broken democracy plagued by division, there must be ways to create that sphere. Whether it is more sidewalks and front porches or better ways to approach uncomfortable conversations is what this paper aims to recommend for community planners and civic organizations.

This paper is twofold in its approach, detailing both the theoretical arguments in favor of creating a public space that promotes both improved citizenship and neighborliness and then practically applying methods of doing so. American democracy as we know it is changing quickly, and a return to the public sphere cannot bridge all the gaps, but it is a place to start bringing citizens and neighbors of place together to form a community atmosphere that has declined steadily for decades.

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