Table Talk

Building Democracy One Meal at a Time
Author: Janet A. Flammang
The civic virtues of a seat at the table
Cloth – $110
Paper – $25
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Cloth: 06/27/2016
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About the Book

Etiquette books insist that we never discuss politics during a meal. In Table Talk, Janet A. Flammang offers a polite rebuttal, presenting vivid firsthand accounts of people's lives at the table to show how mealtimes can teach us the conversational give-and-take foundational to democracy.

Delving into the ground rules about listening, sharing, and respect that we obey when we break bread, Flammang shows how conversations and table activities represent occasions for developing our civil selves. If there are cultural differences over practices--who should speak, what behavior is acceptable, what topics are off limits, how to resolve conflict--our exposure to the making, enforcement, and breaking of these rules offers a daily dose of political awareness and growth. Political table talk provides a forum to practice the conversational skills upon which civil society depends. It also ignites the feelings of respect, trust, and empathy that undergird the idea of a common good that is fundamental to the democratic process.

About the Author

Janet A. Flammang is Professor Emerita in the Department of Political Science at Santa Clara University. Her books include The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society.

Also by this author

The Taste for Civilization cover


"This book provides many examples, stories and cultural comparisons that are fascinating and thought-provoking in the exploration of the potential for democracy and community-building over the dinner table. It is a highly readable addition to the literature."--Social Anthropology


"Flammang's works have been breakthrough in the field in that she examines food at the micro level: the dinner table where not only do children learn manners, but we learn the skills of political engagement in a civil democratic society. A powerful and important statement that must be heeded."--Ken Albala, Director of Food Studies, University of the Pacific

"This is a great book--comprehensive, full of sharp observations, and provocative. Flammang shows convincingly how politics infuses and constitutes civil society through the domestic and how far the quotidian features of domestic life present opportunities for the cultivation of specific virtues essential to a healthy civic community."--John Finn, author of Peopling the Constitution

"A keenly intelligent, deeply resonant, and well-researched book that demonstrates the foundational role played by the domestic sphere in the formation of a democratic civic life. Every citizen and politician should read this book, a commanding sequel to the author's stunning The Taste for Civilization."--Judith Newton, author of Tasting Home: Coming of Age in the Kitchen