Citizenship and Identity: Towards a New Republic

By John Schwarzmantel | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Democracy renewed

Democratic experimentalism

The thrust of the argument so far has been negative, in that various ideas of agency and democratic renewal have been reviewed, with all of them found wanting, in various respects. It is thus time to develop and conclude the argument in more positive ways, by offering a solution to the problem of means of democratic transformation. At the same time it is necessary to relate this to the kind of institutions which would be created in a new republic.

The perspective offered here is similar to that proposed by the political theorist Roberto Unger, in his vision of a new democracy set out in his book Democracy Realised.1 His key idea is that of 'democratic experimentalism' which involves ideas of institutional innovation and far-reaching social transformations. In his words,

the master tool of democratic experimentalism is institutional innovation, practised not from on high, with fanciful blueprints and perfectionist designs, but with the materials at hand and in the situation of the moment. 2

Unger rejects the republican perspective because it invokes unrealistic ideas of suppressing individual interests and private concerns. He is sceptical of what he calls 'classical republicanism' because of its 'narrow-minded and unrealistic attempts to suppress private concerns for the sake of public commitments'. 3 The type of 'progressive alternative' to neo-liberalism to which he gives his allegiance involves enlarging the range of those private concerns, rather than displacing or annihilating them.

The analysis offered here is indebted to that of Unger. It differs from him only in the fact that 'republicanism' is used here as a label to suggest the same kind of alternative to the present system that Unger is advocating, for which he in his turn rejects the label of 'republican'. It is true that there is nothing to be gained in contemporary conditions by operating with the idea of a 'mythical selfless citizen of classical republicanism', to use his words. Unger writes that 'the aim is rather to broaden the scope of our ordinary

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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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