First Advisor

Larry Steward

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication


Interpersonal communication -- Philosophy, Critical thinking -- Philosophy, Social interaction -- Political aspects



Physical Description

1 online resource (157 p.)


A common criticism of U.S. citizens today, whether as voters or students or workers, is that they are "lazy and apathetic". It is important to explore the validity of this criticism. This thesis begins with the premise that there are two prerequisites for citizenship in a democracy: (1) that citizens be willing to participate and (2) that citizens are able to participate. The purpose of this research is to examine a particular set of perspectives regarding social conditions which consistently impact the two aforementioned prerequisites. This examination addresses social conditions that undermine a person's ability to participate meaningfully and it addresses perspectives on alternative social conditions which support personal action. Included in this set of perspectives are relevant concepts and ideas derived from Socrates, John Locke, Karl Marx, Anthony Giddens, and Michael Lerner. These prominent thinkers provide likely, but not exclusive examples of how certain themes commonly emerge regarding social conditions and their relationship to communication. Each of these sources, in different ways and to different degrees, demonstrates how social conditions commonly encourage ideology that can undermine personal action. Additionally, each theorist indicates the need for dialogue and critical thinking to penetrate these social conditions and ideologies, thus providing the keys to encouraging personal action. Once established, the potential for dialogue and critical thinking is discussed with regard to several important social arenas and systems of American culture: mass media, education, the workplace, and government. The true test of whether or not Americans are willing to participate depends upon the nature and extent of their ability to participate. As the promotion of dialogue and critical thinking is necessary to assure the second, an exploration of these capacities is necessary to begin assessing the first.


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