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Cultivating Empathy: Implications for Democracy and Public Service
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Cultivating Empathy: Implications for Democracy and Public Service (Hardback)

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Natural disasters appear to be increasing in frequency, and 24/7 media coverage barrages individuals not only with coverage of the event but also with appeals to donate to victims of the disaster. To what extent is it the responsibility of government to remediate the disaster, and to what extent must we rely on philanthropies and the uncertain generosity of individuals to provide relief? How does the discourse of a particular disaster event encourage or impede public empathy toward the victims, and how does the discourse of empathy (or lack thereof) affect administrative response in a given disaster?

Lisa A. Zanetti studies how and under what circumstances empathy plays a role in the articulation and implementation of public policy, especially in disaster situations. Her book uses discourse analysis to look at media coverage of five hurricane events in the US: Galveston in 1900 and 2008 (Ike); New Orleans in 1969 (Camille) and 2005 (Katrina); and Miami/South Florida in 1992 (Andrew). Cultivating Empathy begins by engaging with the prosocial and neurological research about empathy, and then explores the role of empathy in the public sphere both theoretically and practically. It also addresses some of empathy's more difficult aspects, and then closes with ideas for application in practice.

By determining how the discourse of a particular disaster event encourages or impedes public empathy toward the victims, and how the discourse of empathy affects disaster response, Zanetti makes the case that empathy is indeed important in a substantively democratic polity. Her original research will inform scholars and practitioners of public administration, public policy, disaster management, and sociology of the need to be vigilant in disaster policy responses, among other policy decisions.

Lisa A. Zanetti is an associate professor at the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri. She was a collaborator on Government is Us: Public Administration in an Anti-Government Age (Sage, 1998) and co-author with Cheryl Simrell King of Transformational Public Service: Portraits of Theory in Practice (M.E. Sharpe, 2005). Her articles have appeared in Administrative Theory & Praxis, American Review of Public Administration, Administration & Society, Human Relations, Journal of Organizational Change Management, and other outlets. She currently has manuscripts pending on this topic at Public Administration Review and Administration & Society, as well as a grant proposal at IBM's Center for Business in Government.

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