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Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life

Summer Institute of Civic Studies

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies is an intensive, two-week, interdisciplinary seminar that brings together faculty, advanced graduate students, and practitioners from many countries and diverse fields of study.

The Summer Institute was founded and co-taught from 2009-17 by Peter Levine, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Tisch College; and Karol Sołtan, Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. The 10th annual Summer Institute took place from June 11 to June 21, 2018, and it was taught by Peter Levine alongside several Tufts colleagues. Each year, it features guest seminars by distinguished scholars and practitioners from various institutions and engages participants in challenging discussions such as:

  • How can people work together to improve the world?
  • How can people reason together about what is right to do?
  • What practices and institutional structures promote these kinds of citizenship?
  • How should empirical evidence, ethics, and strategy relate?

A sample syllabus, from the 2018 Summer Institute, is at the bottom of this page. You can read more about the motivation for the Institute in the Civic Studies Framing Statement by Harry Boyte, University of Minnesota; Stephen Elkin, University of Maryland; Peter Levine, Tufts; Jane Mansbridge, Harvard; Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University; Karol Sołtan, University of Maryland; and Rogers Smith, University of Pennsylvania.

The seminar is immediately followed by a three-day public conference, Frontiers of Democracy, in downtown Boston. Participants in the institute are expected to stay for the conference.

Practicalities and How to Apply

Daily sessions take place on the Tufts campus in Medford, Massachusetts. Tuition for the Institute is free, but participants are responsible for their own housing and transportation. One option is a Tufts University dormitory room, which can be rented for $69/night (single room) or $85/night (double room). Credit is not automatically offered, but special arrangements for graduate credit may be possible.

The application consists of a resume, a cover letter about your interests, and an electronic copy of your graduate transcript (if applicable). The application period for the 2019 Summer Institute will open in the Spring. You can sign up here to receive occasional emails about the Summer Institute, including a notification when we begin accepting applications.

For more information contact Peter Levine, Tisch College's Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, at

European Institute

Applicants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan are invited to apply to the European Institute of Civic Studies, to be held in Herrsching, near Munich, Germany, from July 15 to July 28, 2018. Their costs are covered thanks to a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).


2018 Summer Institute Syllabus

Part I: Inspirations and Introductions

Monday, June 11

10 am-Noon: A “feeling of personal responsibility for the world”

Part II: Problems of Collective Action

2 pm-4 pm: Elinor Ostrom and the Bloomington School

We will play a “tragedy of the commons” game and discuss the results in the light of Ostrom.

  • Thomas Dietz, Nives Dolsak, Elinor Ostrom, and Paul C. Stern, "The Drama of the Commons," in Elinor Ostrom, ed., Drama of the Commons, pp. 3-26.
  • Elinor Ostrom, "Covenants, Collective Action, and Common-Pool Resources"
  • Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize Lecture (video or text)

4:30 pm-6:00 pm: Group activity, mapping ideas and getting to know each other

Tuesday, June 12

10 am-Noon: Social Capital as a Solution

  • Robert D. Putnam, " Community-Based Social Capital and Educational Performance," in Ravitch and Viteritti, eds., Making Good Citizens, pp. 58-95
  • Mark R. Warren, Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy, pp. 4-70

2 pm-4 pm: Emergent Systems

  • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, Chapters 1, 4 and Postscript, pp. 11-21, 54-70, 397-411.
  • James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, Introduction (pp. 1-8), Chapter 3 "Authoritarian High Modernism"

4:30-6:00 pm: Visitor (to be announced)

Wednesday, June 13

10 am-Noon: Collective Action Problems at Scale

  • James Madison, The Federalist #10
  • Jane Mansbridge, Beyond Adversary Democracy, pp. 3-35, pp. 163-82, 290-8

2 pm-4 pm: Public Work

4:30 pm-6:00 pm: Visitor (to be announced)

Part III: Identifying Good Ends and Means

Thursday, June 14

10 am-Noon: Jürgen Habermas

  • Jürgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” New German Critique, 3 (1974), pp. 49-55
  • Jürgen Habermas, Legitimation Crisis, pp. 95-117 (note: first few pages harder than what follows)
  • Note: Optional alternative or complement to the Habermas texts: James Finlayson, Habermas: A Very Short Introduction, Chapters 1-4

2 pm-4 pm: Debates about Deliberation

  • Jean L. Cohen, “American Civil Society Talk,” in Robert K. Fullinwider, ed., Civil Society, Democracy, and Civic Renewal, pp. 55-85
  • Nina Eliasoph, Avoiding Politics, pp. 1-22
  • Lynn Sanders, “Against Deliberation

4:30 pm-6:00 pm: Visitor (to be announced)

Friday , June 15

10 am-Noon: Implementing Deliberative Democracy

During this session, we will design deliberative fora

  • Archon Fung, "Recipes for Public Spheres: Eight Institutional Design Choices and Their Consequences" in Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 11, No. 3. (September 2003), pp. 338-67
  • Danielle E. Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown, v. Board of Education, pp 140-186

2 pm-4 pm: Scholars in Public Deliberation

  • John Dewey, The Public and its Problems, Chapter 5, "Search for the Great Community."
  • Bent Flyvbjerg, "Social Science that Matters" (2006)
  • Bent Flyvbjerg, "Making Organization Research Matter: Power, Values and Phronesis" (2006)
  • Bent Flyvbjerg, Making Social Science Matter, Chapter 10, pp. 141-65
  • David Garvin, "Making the Case"

No visitor (weekend)

Part IV: Addressing Exclusion and Oppression

Monday, June 18

10 am-Noon: Exclusion and Identity

2 pm-4 pm: Social Movements

4:30 -6:00 pm: Visitor (to be announced)

Tuesday, June 19

10 am-Noon: Community Organizing

  • Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals, 1946 (1969 edition), pp. 76-81; 85-88; 92-100, 132-5, 155-158.
  • Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking, pp. 115-138

2 pm-4 pm Nonviolence

4:30 -6:00 pm: Visitor (to be announced)

Wednesday, June 20

10 am-Noon: Nonviolent Campaigns

  • Martin Luther King, Stride Toward Freedom, chapters 3, 4, and 5.
  • Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, chapters 1 and 2

2 pm-4 pm: Civic Education: What all this means for what students should learn

  • Joel Westheimer and Joseph E. Kahne, “Educating the ‘Good Citizen’: Political Choices and Pedagogical Goals,” PS Online

Thursday, June 21

10 am-1 pm: Training in Nonviolence with the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

2 pm-3:30 pm: Closing session and reflections

6 pm: Frontiers of Democracy Conference begins in downtown Boston



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