Chapter 3 City of Rhetoric – A New Civic Map for Our Time
In Chapter 3 of City of Rhetoric, David Fleming speaks about the different “scenes” of democracy. He mentions the effect that civic education and rhetorical training that future citizens would receive and whether it lacks the conversation that communities and societies need in order to flourish. He also continues speaking about the “placeless-ness” of political theory from previous chapters, and reiterates his ideas that communities or, as he calls them, ‘neighborhoods” are the ideal socio-spatial environment.
Fleming notes that we act like the “place” we are in doesn’t have a prominent role in how we think about political theory. Since there are so many different types of environments in which we live in, varying in “size, shape, density, diversity, and power (37)”, there should be more emphasis on where exactly we are situated. The general consensus is that “it does not matter where you are a citizen; just be one (37)”, but considering how different communities in different places are, it really should matter in order to properly define political theory.
Fleming states his concern for the level of education that is taught and needed for political theory to the public. If the citizens in said location aren’t provided the information about their own laws and regulations, as well as the definition of what being a citizen really means, there won’t be any real changes to the terms and regulations that we have been living with, whether we are aware of them or not. In order to understand the world and the “spaces” we are living in, we need to be able to talk about them and be provided with the whole amount of information.
Another issue is that mainstream education is mostly veered towards a certain type of student, the typical American student. Fleming explains that educators and literature written by American educators teach American students one certain view of democracy, and influences them to believe that democracy is “unfolding primarily on large canvases, where ordinary individuals like themselves participate, if at all, indirectly, and where most decision making is conducted by professional politicians and technocrats (41).” Therefore these students don’t believe that they have any impact on democracy or politics, that they only hold the role of watching what’s going to happen.
This introduces Fleming’s idea of “The Neighborhood”, a place considered to be “a smaller democracy, where ordinary individuals can engage, in person, in public judgement and decision making (43).” A place where small groups of citizens who consider themselves actual citizens are able to come together and make decisions, and often join with other groups in order to make bigger decisions. This allows people to feel like they are legitimately a part of the larger community and are equal with each other.
Yet there is problems with the neighborhood as well, as small democracies often don’t have the power or the resources needed in order to solve the problems that members of the neighborhood have. Fleming brings in the idea of a city instead, as a city potentially is the perfect middle between too large of a public and too small of one. Cities are full of diversity, yet are still considered a community, and is where debating problems and differences seem to thrive. Fleming concludes the chapter by explaining that he is choosing a city as an ideal place for public life to be located, in order for politics to have the most strength with its citizens.
Fleming, David. “A New Civic Map for Our Time.” City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany: SUNY, 2008. 37-58. Print.