Healing the Heart of Democracy

Healing the Heart of Democracy is not about blaming “them,” our elected officials in Washington, D.C., for our country’s problems.

March 10, 2014 11:27 IST | India Infoline News Service

Title: Healing the Heart of Democracy

Author: Parker J. Palmer

Pages: 256 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 978-0-470-59080-5

Price: US$24.95

Publication Date: September 2011, Jossey-Bass

Published by John Wiley & Sons (Asia) Pte. Ltd.

At this critical time in American life, Parker J. Palmer – bestselling author, thought-leader, teacher, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal – brings us a powerful and stimulating new book, HEALING THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY:  The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit.

“Democracy,” writes Palmer, “is a non-stop experiment in the strengths and weaknesses of our political institutions, local communities, and the human heart. The experiment is endless, unless we blow up the lab, and the explosives to do the job are found within us.  But so also is the heart’s alchemy that can turn suffering into compassion, conflict into community, and tension into energy for creativity amid democracy’s demands.”

Defining “heart” as the place where our knowledge becomes fully human, Palmer identifies five interlocking “habits of the heart” that Americans need in response to today’s fractious and fragmented political environment: 

  • An understanding that we are all in this together
  • An appreciation of the value of ‘‘otherness’’
  • An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways
  • A sense of personal voice and agency
  • A capacity to create community

Palmer reminds us that in a democracy there is no “final solution” for any issue, so our political system works well only when “We the People” have the habits required to make creative use of our unresolved tensions.  He identifies the settings of everyday life in which our habits are developed – families, neighborhoods, classrooms, congregations, our media-generated culture, cyberspace, and the diverse venues of public life.  He spells out what we can do in those settings to form hearts supple enough to embrace democracy’s endless conflicts. Democracy, says Palmer, is about humility as well as chutzpah – the capacity to listen as well as to speak across the lines of difference that enrich American life. 

Healing the Heart of Democracy is not about blaming “them,” our elected officials in Washington, D.C., for our country’s problems.  Instead, it is an appeal to rebuild the neglected infrastructure of democracy – the fabric of local life and the habits of the heart that sustain it – to help us restore a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  Here is a soul-searching, deeply thoughtful, and well-grounded manifesto that proposes practical and hopeful ways of doing exactly that.


About Author:


Parker J. Palmer (Madison, WI) is a writer, teacher and activist whose work speaks deeply to people in many walks of life. Author of eight books—including the bestsellers Courage to TeachLet Your Life Speakand A Hidden Wholeness—his writing has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates and many national awards, including the 2010 William Rainey Harper Award (previously won by Margaret Mead, Paulo Freire, and Elie Wiesel). He is founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, and holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

About Wiley:

Founded in 1807, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. is a legal family that has been a valued source of information and understanding for over 200 years, helping people around the world meet their needs and fulfill their aspirations. Since 1901, Wiley and its acquired companies have published the works of more than 450 Nobel laureates in all categories: Literature, Economics, Physiology/Medicine, Chemistry, Physics and Peace.


Our core businesses include scientific, technical, medical and scholarly journals, encyclopedias, books, and online products and services; professional/trade books, subscription products, training materials, and online applications and websites; and educational materials for undergraduate and graduate students and lifelong learners. Wiley's global headquarters are located in Hoboken, New Jersey, with operations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada and Australia. The Company's website can be accessed at http://www.wiley.com. The Company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols JWa and JWb.


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