“Paul Sabin has written a fascinating account of the forgotten history of public interest liberalism. He offers a powerful reminder that the attack on big government didn’t just come from the right but the left as well. In demanding that the government be held accountable, this generation of reformers undermined the confidence of many Americans in what our government institutions were capable of doing.”

Julian Zelizer, author of Burning Down the House

In the 1960s and 1970s, an insurgent attack on traditional liberalism took shape in America, built on new ideals of citizen advocacy and the public interest.

Public Citizens traces the history of this public interest movement and explores its tangled legacy, showing the ways in which American liberalism has been at war with itself. The book forces us to reckon with the challenges of regaining our faith in government’s ability to advance the common good.

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U.S. Steel Corporation plant on the Monongahela River in 1973. (EPA)Sunbathers at Huntington Beach, and an oil platform offshore, May 1975 (Environmental Protection Agency)Pumps closed on Interstate 5 in Oregon (Environmental Protection Agency)
U.S. Steel Corporation plant on the Monongahela River in 1973. (EPA)
Sunbathers at Huntington Beach, and an oil platform offshore, May 1975 (Environmental Protection Agency)
Pumps closed on Interstate 5 in Oregon (Environmental Protection Agency)

Latest Updates

Interview with James Surowiecki of The Yale Review

I spoke with author James Surowiecki of The Yale Review about tensions within liberalism and the history of the public interest critique of big government: “Who Killed Big Government? It’s not who you think”

YaleNews Interview about Public Citizens

I spoke with Susan Gonzalez from YaleNews about some of the historical lessons from Public Citizens: “The Rise of Public Interest Advocacy– and the Attack on Big Government.”

 

Spoke about Public Citizens on Politics and Polls

I discussed tensions within liberalism in the 1960s and 70s and their continuing relevance today on Politics and Polls with Princeton profs Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang: “When the Left Attacks Big Government”

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