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Summer Institute of Civic Studies

The annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies is an intensive, two-week, interdisciplinary seminar bringing together advanced graduate students, faculty, and practitioners from diverse fields of study. Since 2009, more than 200 people from at least 25 countries have completed the Institute at Tufts or its sister European Institute, which is centered in Ukraine. The 2018 Tufts Institute will take place from June 11-June 23 in Medford, MA. Admission is competitive and requires a simple application (an email explaining the applicant’s interests, a CV or resume, and a graduate transcript, if relevant). If you sign up for updates (see the box on the right), you will be notified when the application process begins in 2018. Questions should be directed to Peter Levine, Associate Dean at Tisch College and co-organizer of the Institute.

About the Summer Institute

The Summer Institute was founded and co-taught by Peter Levine, Associate Dean of Research at Tisch College, and Karol Sołtan, Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland from 2008-17. In 2018, it will be taught by Peter Levine with Tufts colleagues. It features guest seminars by distinguished colleagues 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?
  • What ought to be the relationships among empirical evidence, ethics, and strategy?

The daily sessions take place on the Tufts campus in Medford, MA. The seminar concludes with a public conference, Frontiers of Democracy, and participants in the Institute are expected to stay for the conference.

Tuition for the Institute is free, but students are responsible for their own housing and transportation. A Tufts University dormitory room can be rented for $230-$280/week. Credit is not automatically offered but special arrangements for graduate credit may be possible.

The 2018 Summer Institute of Civic Studies syllabus is below.

For more information contact Peter Levine, Tisch College's Associate Dean for Research, at

The Sister Seminar in Eastern Europe

Starting in 2015, a parallel Summer Institute has taken place in Europe for participants from Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and Germany. These 'sister seminars' are co-organized by Peter Levine and Karol Sołtan with Dr. Tetyana Kloubert from the University of Augsburg. For more information about the Summer Institute of Civic Studies in Eastern Europe, please contact Dr. Kloubert at


2018 Summer Institute Syllabus

Note: This draft syllabus is subject to change

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

Sign up for Updates

Fill out this short form for occasional announcements about the Frontiers of Democracy Conference and the Summer Institute of Civic Studies. Please note that completing this form does not mean that you have officially applied to either.