The Ideology of Civic Engagement

AmeriCorps, Politics, and Pedagogy

By Sara Carpenter

Subjects: Political Communication, Education, Cultural Studies, Public Policy, Sociology
Paperback : 9781438481326, 264 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438481333, 264 pages, January 2021

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Examines the organization, regulation, and enactment of civic engagement within AmeriCorps, an American volunteer service program.


Over the last thirty years, calls for the civic engagement of the American citizenry, especially young people, have gotten increasingly louder. A clear message has emerged that today's pressing social problems are best addressed through the innovative and entrepreneurial work of citizens. But what are we learning about democracy through our community service and civic engagement? The Ideology of Civic Engagement is a unique study of the American volunteerism program AmeriCorps. Drawing from deep ethnographic data, Sara Carpenter provides careful analysis of the ways in which public policy and federal regulations influence the inner workings of AmeriCorps programs, from grant writing to volunteer training, with special focus on how teaching and learning for "civic engagement" takes place within the program. Rather than following predetermined metrics for what constitutes democratic participation for young people, she examines how young people's political participation is shaped in a nexus of volunteer labor, neoliberal transformation of human services, deepening forms of inequality, and political discourse about democracy.

Sara Carpenter is Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. She is the coauthor (with Shahrzad Mojab) of Revolutionary Learning: Marxism, Feminism, and Knowledge.


"Throughout the book, several gems provide thought-provoking ideas and challenges." — CHOICE