A theory of citizenship: organizing plurality in contemporary democracies

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A globalized economy, it turned out, served the interests of most people in developing countries and elites in advanced countries—but not the interests of the working and middle classes in the developed economies, which had done so well in the three decades after World War II. As economies struggled and unemployment persisted, the groups and regions that failed to rebound lost confidence in mainstream parties and established institutions, fueling the populist upsurge that has upended U.

In recent years, however, I have come to believe that this is only a portion of the truth. A structural explanation that places economics at the base and treats other issues as derivative distorts a more complex reality. The United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union all failed to deal with waves of immigration in ways that commanded public support. Postelection analyses show that concerns about immigration largely drove the Brexit referendum, the U.

In government, the media, and major metropolitan areas, technological change has spurred the growth and consolidation of an education-based meritocracy, giving rise to new class divisions.

reply: The Value of Liberal Theories of Citizenship Education: A Response to Merry

For citizens with less formal education, particularly those in rural areas and smaller towns, the dominance of this new elite has led to feelings of marginalization. Too often, individuals who have prospered in this meritocracy are seen as harboring a sense of superiority to their fellow citizens. Denying the equal dignity and worth of others is self-defeating: Insult does even more than injury to fuel resentment, one of the most dangerous of all political passions.

With these developments, divisions among citizens based on geography, formal-education levels, and value systems are growing sharper. Supporters of dynamism and diversity increasingly clash with proponents of stability and homogeneity, beneficiaries of technological change with those harmed by the resulting economic shifts. The combination of economic dislocation, demographic change, and challenges to traditional values has left many less educated citizens feeling that their lives are outside their control.

The national and international governing institutions they thought would step in to help seemed frozen or indifferent. In the United States, partisan polarization gridlocked the system, preventing progress on critical issues.

In Europe, the opposite phenomenon—a duopoly of the center-left and center-right that kept important issues off the public agenda—had much the same effect. In light of this apparent inability to address mounting problems, governments across the West face growing public ire. Many citizens, their confidence in the future shaken, long instead for an imagined past that insurgent politicians have promised to restore.


The door seems to be opening for a return to forms of authoritarianism written off by many as relics of the past. To clarify what these developments may mean for liberal democracy, it is helpful to distinguish among four concepts—the republican principle, democracy, constitutionalism, and liberalism. The people, this principle holds, are the sole source of legitimacy, and only they can rightly authorize forms of government.

Democracy , at the most basic level, requires both the equality of all citizens and broadly inclusive citizenship.

A Theory Of Citizenship : Herman candbassslipmanfi.tk Gunsteren :

A society in which all citizens are equal but only 10 percent of all adults are citizens would not, today, count as a democracy. Together with equal and inclusive citizenship, the other key pillar of democratic governance is majority rule. This means, first, that public decisions are made by popular majorities of citizens whose votes all count equally; and second, that democratic decision making extends to a maximally wide range of public matters. Majoritarianism is limited only by the imperative of preserving the liberties and powers—freedom of speech, assembly, and the press, among others—that citizens need to influence public decisions.

ISBN 10: 0813368626

In this conception of democracy unmodified by any adjective, there is nothing essentially undemocratic about majoritarian decisions that systematically disadvantage specific individuals and groups or invade privacy rights. If it wishes, a democratic public may embrace the maxim that it is better for ten guilty individuals to go free than for one innocent individual to be found guilty—but it is no less democratic if it adopts the opposite view. Nor is it undemocratic per se to conduct judicial proceedings in the same manner as legislative affairs.

The Athenian assembly that condemned Socrates may have been wrong, but it was fully democratic. These limits need not constrain public power in the aggregate. The sheer size of modern political communities, however, makes this impossible, even for those communities founded on republican principles. One might conclude, then, that the liberty of the moderns consists in the selection of representatives through free and fair elections in which all may participate on equal terms.

But this is only part of the story. We have now reached the core idea of liberalism: recognizing and protecting a sphere beyond the rightful reach of government in which individuals can enjoy independence and privacy. In this spirit, the U. Declaration of Independence not only invokes but also limits the republican principle.

We can now venture a more precise characterization of liberal democracy. This type of political order rests on the republican principle, takes constitutional form, and incorporates the civic egalitarianism and majoritarian principles of democracy. At the same time, it accepts and enforces the liberal principle that the legitimate scope of public power is limited, which entails some constraints on or divergences from majoritarian decision making. These distinctions also shed light on the populist challenge to liberal democracy.

Populism is not merely, as some observers have suggested, an emotion-laden expression of disappointment over frustrated economic expectations, resentment against rigged rules and special interests, and fear of threats to physical and cultural security. Of our four key concepts, populism accepts the principles of popular sovereignty and democracy, understood in straightforward fashion as the exercise of majoritarian power. It is skeptical, however, about constitutionalism, insofar as formal, bounded institutions and procedures impede majorities from working their will.

It takes an even dimmer view of liberal protections for individuals and minority groups. From this perspective, populism is a threat not to democracy per se but rather to the dominant liberal variant of democracy. These observers argue that elites, by taking important issues such as economic, monetary, and regulatory policies off the public agenda and assigning them to institutions insulated from public scrutiny and influence, have invited precisely the popular revolt that now threatens to overwhelm them.

But to stop here would be to leave half the story untold—the more important half, in my view. Because populism embraces the republican principle of popular sovereignty, it faces the question inherent in this principle: Who are the people? The people is an ensemble of individuals who enjoy a common civic status. During the founding period of the United States, however, a thicker understanding prevailed. Historically, right-leaning populists have emphasized shared ethnicity and common descent, while left-leaning populists have often defined the people in class terms, excluding those with wealth and power.

Recently, a third definition has entered public debate—the people as opposed to cultural elites. In its U. The people have one set of interests and values, the elite has another, and these two sets are not only different but fundamentally opposed. The divisions are moral as well as empirical. Populism understands the elite as hopelessly corrupt, the people as uniformly virtuous—meaning that there is no reason why the people should not govern themselves and their society without institutional restraints.

And populist leaders claim that they alone represent the people, the only legitimate force in society. This approach raises some obvious difficulties. First, it is divisive by definition. Individuals outside the charmed circle of the people may therefore be excluded from equal citizenship, violating the principle of inclusion that is essential to democracy.

Second, the populist definition of the people is inherently counter-factual. In circumstances of even partial liberty, different social groups will have different interests, values, and origins. Plurality, not homogeneity, characterizes most peoples, most of the time. Populism is the enemy of pluralism, and thus of modern democracy. Equally counterfactual is the proposition that the people are uniformly virtuous. They are not, of course. Indeed toleration that underwrites a society in which people are prepared to work together to maintain basic structures, defines a common concept of justice and to fulfill liberal purposes is likely to require more than a willingness to live and let live.

Mutual respect seems to be required.

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Some critics therefore wonder whether non-liberal groups are likely to accept the kind of toleration that mutualism requires Crowder The liberal multiculturalism of Galston fails to do justice to minorities at least in two respects. One of them is their failure to deal with the problem of historical injustice and the other is the problem of politics.

Liberal multiculturalism provides an account of justice for minority groups. But it pays little attention to practical politics: how minority groups can ensure that a government will treat them justly. Practically speaking, having political power over crucial decisions is the only guarantee at least in the opinion of people in many minority groups.

Galston thinks that groups should be able to make their own decision about some matters, but they have typically liberal ideas about citizenship. Citizens are individuals. Participation in minority group decision-making is something apart from participation in decision making of governments.

follow Groups themselves do not participate in political decision making of the State. This means that minority groups can still be at a disadvantage if political decisions go against them—if the State is not prepared to satisfy liberal multicultural requirements of justice. For example, Aborigines are a small minority in Australian population and if the government decides on a policy that disadvantages them, there is not much they can do about it. Having a few seats in a parliament, without veto power, dedicated to minority groups is not sufficient, because the majority can outvote these few representatives.

Civic education might help—but probably not enough in a society where there is a lot of distrust and entrenched prejudices. The author acknowledges the contribution of Professor Janna Thompson and Dr. Toula Nicolacopoulos of La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia for their invaluable contribution in making the arguments and comments on different version of the paper. However, I think his theory counts as a theory of liberal multiculturalism. It is liberal because, as we will see, it subscribes to liberal values. It is multicultural because it aims to show how diverse cultures and communities can exist within a liberal State.

National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Published online Aug 8. Golam Azam. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Golam Azam, Email: db. Corresponding author. Received Mar 15; Accepted Aug 3. Abstract Liberal multicultural theories developed in late twenty-first century aims to ensure the rights of the minorities, social justice and harmony in liberal societies.

Political Inequality in Affluent Democracies: A Lecture by Larry Bartels

Background In discussing how liberal-democratic States ought to relate to non-liberal cultural minorities within their jurisdiction, liberals are divided into two camps.