Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship, and Republican Liberalism

By Richard Johnson Dagger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Encouraging Citizenship

In Part I of this book, I tried to show how a concern for individual rights is compatible with a commitment to the importance of community, duty, and virtue. Rousseau's contractarian republicanism reinforces this point. But Rousseau's outline of an association in which each man unites with all yet obeys only himself and remains as free as before also points up the difficulty of ensuring the civic virtue necessary to republican liberalism. That is, he leaves us with the question of whether republican liberalism is practically possible.

The question arises because republican liberalism ties individual rights to civic duties by way of reciprocity and fair play. Those who enjoy the benefits of a cooperative enterprise, such as the rights guaranteed by a political order, must also bear their share of the burdens of the enterprise. They must act as citizens, in Rousseau's terms, not as men. Yet if Rousseau is right, people are typically inclined to follow their particular wills rather than their general will. Even if he is wrong, the size, diversity, and complexity of the modern state make it difficult for us to see ourselves as members of a body politic that is also a cooperative enterprise. If we cannot see ourselves as citizens, in Rousseau's sense, we cannot act as citizens. For republican liberalism to work, it must be possible to overcome these difficulties by finding ways to foster citizenship. But is this possible?

The first step toward an answer is to explicate the conception of citizenship at work here and to explain why citizenship of this sort is worth encouraging. I take up these tasks in the first two sections of this chapter. In the third section I turn to the problem of identifying tactics for encouraging citizenship that are compatible with republican liberalism.


Republican-Liberal Citizenship

As Rousseau conceived of it, citizenship is intimately related to civic virtue-so intimately that he practically defined "citizen" as "one who acts

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