Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Developing Responsible Citizens in Serbia: The Case of Ecological Citizenship

Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Developing Responsible Citizens in Serbia: The Case of Ecological Citizenship

Article excerpt


The analysis relies on the concepts of participative democracy and ecological citizenship. The paper discusses dilemmas related to development of (ecological) citizenship in matured democratic systems as well as in post-socialist countries. The main analytical focus is on the challenges of generating environmentally responsible citizens in Serbia. This analysis is based on empirical data obtained through questionnaire research on representative sample for citizens in Serbia (N=1950) in 2010. One of the main conclusions is that dominant model of the citizen in Serbia is "orientation to the state", since most of the respondents expect from state actors to play a leading role in achieving higher standards and better quality of the environment. For developing a model of the responsible citizens (who would consider the environmental protection to be a civic duty), there is a lack of essential citizens' confidence in institutions, as well as in their fellow citizens.

Keywords: participative democracy, ecological citizenship

1. Introduction: The concepts of participative democracy and ecological citizenship Participatory democracy enters the contemporary political discourse with the concept of responsible management (of the environment), which implies a decrease in the significance of command and control powers of state actors, and an increase in the capacity of their action through a partnership with actors outside the hierarchy of state control (Borzel, 2009), including citizens as a significant partner. This raises the issue of adequacy of citizens' capacity (information, expertise, motivation, support) for partnership action. In a broader sense, responsible management of the environment should reaffirm the concept of dedicated actors who express their concern for the issues of public interest, and raises a complex issue of the relationship between rights (to personal interests) and responsibilities (to the community) in contemporary society (Barry, 2002).

This section discusses briefly main dilemmas related to the concepts of participative democracy and ecological citizenship in matured democratic systems. It can be argued that many environmental issues entered the political field of modern society from the "bottom-up", thanks to the demands formulated by the interested and concerned actors of the civil sector (Wissenburg 2004). In recent decades, however, despite the fact that environmental concern has become universal and generally high, and in most countries the environmental concern is, at least in a certain sense, a part of the political mainstream (Pakulski and Crook, 1998), there is an obvious lack of motivation on the part of citizens to act adequately, both in the public and private domain.

One important reason is identified in the process of depolitization of citizenship (Jagers, 2009), which reduces citizens to clients, and civic virtues to the interest of calculative actors, who pay taxes and expect efficient services, investing their time and energy into politics only when it is necessary to protect and promote their personal interests (Rose, 2000; Beauregard and Bounds, 2000). Since the 1970s and the 1980s, in the spirit of neoliberalism, the notion of social citizenship, which has been developed in order to overcome some of the most serious consequences of modernization in the West, is increasingly understood, due to the standardized approach, as a source of repression against the needs of citizens. This entails a change in the meaning of the concept of citizenship itself; thus the emphasis is shifted from the rights (to safety, protection, etc.) to the responsibility of citizens for personal success, and it is explained by the level of achieved social opportunities that require creativity of individuals on a personal level, primarily in the domain of consumption (Sccery, 2009). But this new concept of participatory democracy does not necessarily bring about positive changes. …

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