Indiana State University Newsroom

Professors pen book on democracy as a way of life

April 1, 2014

Indiana State University professors Richard Schneirov and Gaston Fernandez co-authored Democracy as a Way of Life in America: A History, a book focused on the development and history of American democracy.

The book examines the way democracy has spread from government and electoral politics into the economy and culture over the course of American history

"Democracy back 200 or so years ago, we were talking about government and politics," Schneirov, professor of history said. "But now we understand that government is much more than government and politics. It is a set of values, beliefs and ways of looking at the world that embraces an entire way of life."

"[The book's purpose] is to try to create a usable past so that Americans can make the next great step forward for democracy," he said.

Fernandez, professor of political science, explained that key moments in shaping American democracy are both "historical and contemporary."

"Obviously the American Revolution and the American Civil War were game changers in terms of basic definitions of democracy," he said. "The Great Depression, FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society were bench marks in terms of economic changes in democracy."

Fernandez and Schneirov also pointed to a series of social movements that have shaped American democracy including women's suffrage, civil rights and environmentalism.

"Schneirov and Fernandez look for democratic ideas and practices in corporations and families, in social movements and cultural productions, in education and childrearing," sociologist John Markoff wrote in his review of the book. "Their democratic America is a place of continual controversy over everything from corporate power to disco; their cast of characters ranges from the marginalized to the spectacularly successful, from those in power to the social movements that challenged them."

The book had its origins with a series of lectures to students at Liaoning University in Shenyang, China. The professors then decided to publish a book based on their lectures after learning from their Chinese contact that such a book was too "sensitive" to publish there. Therefore, they changed the direction of their writing toward a American audience.

Fernandez said understanding democracy is key to continuing America's democratic "journey."

"Democracy is not a thing, but a process and we are now in another phase," he said. "Understanding where we are today without understanding where we have come from doesn't make any sense."

The book is dedicated to students and both professors hope that it helps foster young Americans ability to think critically about democracy. Published by Routledge, the book is available in hardback, paperback and as an e-book.

In a constantly changing world, "the struggle for democracy is ongoing," Fernandez said. "And it's the next generation that has to pick up the torch."

Writer: Emily Sturgess, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or