Citizenship and Identity: Towards a New Republic

By John Schwarzmantel | Go to book overview

3

The challenge of republicanism

Introduction

Having thus identified the problems of liberal-democracy, and the difficulties facing some of the answers in terms of citizenship and community, the next task is to see if republican theory can provide the theoretical basis for a possible alternative to the contemporary liberal-democratic state. The aim is to provide a critical discussion of the politics of contemporary democracy from the perspective of republican theory, and to use such ideas to advocate the transformation of liberal-democracy. Such a programme in turn requires a presentation of the nature and institutional structure of such a transformed democracy as well as some indication of the means by which such a new form of democracy could be realised. This raises the question of 'agency', referring to the problem of identifying the groups, movements and processes that might be the creators or initiators of such a different form of democracy.

The point of commencement is thus the belief that liberal-democracy is subject to challenges that question some of its basic assumptions and institutions. In its most general form, the problem is one of finding a common philosophy which can provide a sense of cohesion for increasingly fragmented and diverse societies. Politics and political discourse seem to concern and mobilise a diminishing number of members of these political societies. Mass movements which bring large numbers of people together and create counter-cultures are a thing of the past. To take an example from the socialist movement in its classical pre-1914 forms, the French socialist leader Jaurès addressing an audience of 150,000 people protesting against the 'Three Year Law' (to prolong the length of military service) and the danger of war seems an image of a mass movement that has gone for good. 1 With the spread of commodification and of market relations into all aspects of life, a sense of common purpose and political community is much harder to achieve in contemporary societies. These societies bear witness to the phenomenon of fragmentation, a splintering of political community into more individualised, privatised and separate concerns.

This is problematic because a democratic society requires some kind of common ground, a consensus, which abstracts from the differences between

-39-

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Citizenship and Identity: Towards a New Republic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1 - Democracy in Difficulty 1
  • 2 - The Triumph of Liberal-Democracy 21
  • 3 - The Challenge of Republicanism 39
  • 4 - The Idea of the New Republic 63
  • 5 - Identity, Difference and the Nation 84
  • 6 - Autonomy and Decentralisation in the New Republic 106
  • 7 - The Transformation of Liberal-Democracy 131
  • Conclusion 150
  • Notes 160
  • Bibliography 175
  • Index 183
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