The Real Change-Makers
Why Government Is Not the Problem or the Solution
by David Warfield Brown
January 2012, 157pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39774-5
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-0-313-39775-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Whatever the social problem, from obesity to school dropouts, Americans need to stop pointing the finger at government for doing too much or too little. America’s social problems—failing health, failing students, failing to help those in greatest need—will be determined by what we do, or don’t do, about them.

Government did not create our social problems and it can't solve them for us. This book explores in detail the who and how of real social change.

The Real Change-Makers: Why Government Is Not the Problem or the Solution is based on a straightforward premise: it is everyday Americans who have always been the real change-makers and whose efforts are now more necessary than ever given the financial squeeze that local, state, and federal governments confront.

In this provocative and timely book, Brown explains why solutions to social problems won’t come from just more litigation, more legislation, more regulation, or more funding. His focus is not upon theory but everyday social practices—pursuing health care beyond the doctor’s office, educating young people beyond the school zone, and pooling resources in new ways that take into account what Americans own, what they know, and what free time they have. Despite living in an age of media distraction, this book calls on citizens to renew their social attention, self-organize, and tackle the social problems that plague us. Most important, it is a book that leads the way to our future.

David Warfield Brown, JD, has experienced the public world from various vantage points: as a lawyer on Wall Street; chief-of-staff on Capitol Hill; state commissioner in New York; deputy mayor of New York City; public authority board member; professor at Yale and the New School; president of Blackburn College; author of two previous books, When Strangers Cooperate: Using Social Conventions to Govern Ourselves and Organization Smarts: Portable Skills for Professionals Who Want to Get Ahead; and coeditor of two more, Agent of Democracy: Higher Education and the HEX Journey and A Different Kind of Politics: Readings on the Role of Higher Education in Democracy. He is the ongoing coeditor of the Higher Education Exchange, an annual publication of the Kettering Foundation. His primary research interest is the social dimensions of problem solving.


"Like a sober, committed, and perspicacious member of the family, David Brown, in The Real Change-Makers, calls us to wake up from our fog of dysfunctional delusions about finding someone to rescue us as a nation. The solution is not experts or government, left or right, politicians or celebrities. It is a rekindled belief in 'We the People', the opening premise of the nation’s constitutional Preamble—and a commitment to do the hard work to make it so."—Harry C. Boyte, Director, Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Augsburg College

“The most critical question in a democracy is what citizens should—and can—do. This book addresses these questions critically but with a deep appreciation for the extraordinary contributions of supposedly ordinary Americans. David Brown takes us to the hidden wellsprings of power in everyday democracy.”—David Mathews, President, Kettering Foundation

"Here is a book that will speak to every generation. David Brown challenges the conventional wisdom that government is either the problem or the solution. Instead, Change-Makers offers critical and imaginative insights into how to reconstruct both professional and public life."—Parker J. Palmer, author of Healing the Heart of Democracy, The Courage to Teach, and Let Your Life Speak

"David Brown's book is an eloquent and compelling argument for how we might fix much that ails us as a nation, one that transcends the zero-sum thinking and ideological grandstanding that permeates so much of the public conversation today, and that concludes with a call to our better selves. The answer, The Real Change-Makers underscores, isn't out there—it is in each of us and in the decisions we make, in our work as citizens determined to leave the world better for generations to come. Read this book, take it to heart, and use it as a blueprint for the good life." —Marc Freedman, author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, and CEO, Civic Ventures
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