Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 May 2021
Mattering, through civic participation, makes people, organizations, neighborhoods, and nations healthier and happier. But not all forms of civic participation come without a struggle. Social improvement often requires conflict. Participation in civic affairs is a necessary condition, but not all forms of engagement lead to transformative results. Some actually result in the fortification of the status quo, which is inimical to millions of people. This is why it’s important to make a distinction between amelioration and transformation. The former refers to minor social reforms aimed at soothing the pain created by a system of injustice. The latter refers to fundamental changes in the system of injustice itself. Depending on social and political dynamics, the pain associated with feeling devalued can lead to social progress or decay. When civil rights activists organized to pass legislation to advance the well-being of Blacks, and when people with disabilities advocated for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, social progress was achieved. But when certain groups in power feel threatened, instead of creating bridges of belonging they erect walls of exclusion.
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