Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen

A conversation with Peter Alexander Meyers and others on citizenship, violence, and the continuation of the Cold War


Fields of Knowledge
  • Pedagogy
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Politics / Economics

Organizing Institutions



Jean-Michel Rabaté

Opens to public



4017 Walnut
Philadelphia, PA 19104


0% Formal - 100% Informal

  • Citizenship

Slought is pleased to announce "Civic War and The Corruption of the Citizen," a public conversation on Monday, May 11 from 6:30-8:00pm featuring Peter Alexander Meyers, Thomas J. Sugrue, and Michael X. Delli Carpini, moderated by Jean-Michel Rabaté, on the occasion of the publication of Peter Alexander Meyers' Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen.

"This fact and perspective has no proper name. Although it is the property of the Citizen it is not civil war; indeed, one of its most striking characteristics is the appearance of civil peace, an uncanny consensus and absence of conflict. Nor is it a reiteration of the total war that ground populations into and with the pervasive machinery of industrialized warfare in the twentieth century. Civic war—a mongrel name suggesting a neoplastic attraction of opposites in which the political facts of the Citizen come to serve exactly that devastating form of human relationship they were meant to avoid— is what we had better call our object of inquiry. My imposition of this odd invention is, I insist, prerequisite if the Citizen is to get anywhere in thinking through the new political landscape of our time. [...]

So let us be clear. The stark analytic apparatus that guides this book is meant to push thinking this way: real war is not immediate violence but rather a form of politics; politics is an active relationship among citizens; war is thus a certain modality and inflection of the way we live together; since the nineteenth century in the United States, this war-as-a-way-of life no longer necessarily depends on armed forces local or expeditionary battling it out somewhere in the world; the operations of the Soldier have become an occasionally catalytic but generally auxiliary fact; therefore the paradigm for American war in the twenty-first century is not—as so many assert in abetting the 'Bush Doctrine'—World War II but rather the Cold War; that is why what is happening to democracy in America after September 11th had better be understood as a continuation of the Cold War, even as this occurs under the amazingly successful covering myth that 'the Cold War is over.' In correspondence with these facts, war will be considered in this book almost exclusively as something that happens to and among citizens and happens to us where we live."
-- Peter Alexander Meyers, Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen

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Michael X. Delli Carpini, Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania (1975) and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota (1980). Prior to joining the University of Pennsylvania faculty in July of 2003, Professor Delli Carpini was Director of the Public Policy program of the Pew Charitable Trusts (1999-2003), and member of the Political Science Department at Barnard College and graduate faculty of Columbia University (1987-2002), serving as chair of the Barnard department from 1995 to 1999. Delli Carpini began his academic career as an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at Rutgers University (1980-1987). His research explores the role of the citizen in American politics, with particular emphasis on the impact of the mass media on public opinion, political knowledge and political participation.

Peter Alexander Meyers is a political theorist and professor of American Studies at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, Visiting Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Princeton University, and director of the Working Group on Rhetoric and Public Knowledge at NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge. He has taught political science, sociology, and philosophy in France (Lille, Paris), Italy (Florence, Rome), and the United States (Williams, Union, Princeton), been an invited researcher at the European University Institute, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the School of Historical Studies of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and served as advisor for museum, educational, and motion picture projects. Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen is the first part of a three-volume work on Democracy in America After 9/11. The Position of the Citizen (volume two) and Political Pathologies of the Democratic Citizen (volume three) will be published by the University of Chicago Press next year.

Thomas J. Sugrue is Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. A specialist in twentieth-century American politics, urban history, civil rights, and race, Sugrue was educated at Columbia; King's College, Cambridge; and Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1992. His most recent book, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (Random House, 2008), has been widely reviewed and was selected as a Main Selection of the History Book Club and a finalist for the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His first book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis (Princeton University Press, 1996), won the Bancroft Prize in American History, the Philip Taft Prize in Labor History, the President's Book Award of the Social Science History Association, and the Urban History Association Award for Best Book in North American Urban History and was selected a Choice Outstanding Academic Book, an American Prospect On-Line Top Shelf Book on Race and Inequality, and a Lingua Franca Breakthrough Book on Race. It has been translated into Japanese. In 2005, Princeton University Press selected The Origins of the Urban Crisis as one of its 100 most influential books of the past one hundred years and published a new edition of The Origins of the Urban Crisis as a Princeton Classic.

Additional Media

To learn more, download an excerpt from Peter Alexander Meyers' publication.

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