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Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media

by Cass Sunstein Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 328 pages
AU$52.99 NZ$55.64
Product Status: Out of stock. Not available to order.
As the Internet grows more sophisticated, it is creating new threats to democracy. Social media companies such as Facebook can sort us ever more efficiently into groups of the like-minded, creating echo chambers that amplify our views. It's no accident that on some occasions, people of different political views cannot even understand each other. It's also no surprise that terrorist groups have been able to exploit social media to deadly effect.  


Welcome to the age of #Republic.  


In this revealing book, Cass Sunstein, the New York Times bestselling author of Nudge and The World According to Star Wars, shows how today's Internet is driving political fragmentation, polarization, and even extremism - and what can be done about it.  


Revisiting the subject of his prescient and 2.0, Sunstein thoroughly rethinks the critical relationship between democracy and the Internet for the modern era. He describes how the Internet creates "cybercascades," exploits "confirmation bias," and assists "polarization entrepreneurs." And he explains why online fragmentation endangers the shared conversations, experiences, and understandings that are the lifeblood of democracy.  


In response, Sunstein proposes practical and legal changes to make the Internet friendlier to democratic deliberation. These changes would get us out of our information cocoons by increasing the frequency of unchosen, unplanned encounters and exposing us to people, places, things, and ideas that we would never have picked for our Twitter feed.  


#Republic need not be an ironic term. As Sunstein shows, it can be a rallying cry for the kind of democracy that citizens of diverse societies most need.

Preface ix

1 The Daily Me 1

2 An Analogy And An Ideal 31

3 Polarization 59

4 Cybercascades 98

5 Social Glue And Spreading Information 137

6 Citizens 157

7 What's Regulation? A Plea 176

8 Freedom Of Speech 191

9 Proposals 213

10 234

11 #Republic 252

Acknowledgments 263

Notes 265

Index 287




"Raises important and troubling questions about the effects of the Internet on a democratic society."

Stephen Labaton, New York Times Book Review  "


"Cass Sunstein sounds a timely warning in this concise, sophisticated account of the rise of the internet culture."

Peter Aspden, Financial Times  


"Lucid and valuable."

Jerome Weeks, San Francisco Chronicle  


"This perceptive volume effectively illuminates the contradictory impulses at the heart of the citizen-consumer."

Publishers Weekly  


"A refreshing counter to overly optimistic perspectives on the internet and democracy."

William Dutton, Times Higher Education  


"A splendid antidote to the views of the utopian populists who equate democracy with information choice provided over the internet."

B. Cooper, Choice  


" enraged many because it asked a set of uncomfortable questions that few had a way of answering...Sunstein continues to press these difficult questions, not as an attack on new technologies but as a challenge to make them make democracy work. This is a compelling if sober set of questions from America's foremost legal scholar."

Lawrence Lessig, Stanford University
Cass R. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School. His many books include the New York Times bestsellers Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler) and The World According to Star Wars. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.