- Will KymlickaWill KymlickaProfessor of Philosophy, Queens University, Canada
This chapter examines theories of citizenship as an important supplement to, rather than a replacement for, theories of justice. It first considers what sorts of virtues and practices are said to be required by democratic citizenship, focusing on two different forms of civic republicanism: a classical view which emphasizes the intrinsic value of political participation, and a liberal view which emphasizes its instrumental importance. The chapter then explains how liberal states can try to promote the appropriate forms of citizenship virtues and practices. It also discusses the seedbeds of civic virtue, taking into account a variety of aspects of liberal society that can be seen as inculcating civic virtues, including the market, civic associations, and the family. It concludes with an analysis of the politics of civic republicanism.
The communitarian critique of liberalism had a dramatic impact on contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy. In the 1970s, the central concepts were justice and rights, as liberals attempted to define a coherent alternative to utilitarianism. In the 1980s, the keywords became community and membership, as communitarians attempted to show how liberal individualism was unable to account for, or to sustain, the communal sentiments, identities, and boundaries needed for any feasible political community.
It was perhaps inevitable that the next stage in the debate would be an attempt to transcend this opposition between liberal individualism and communitarianism, and to integrate the demands of liberal justice and community membership. One obvious candidate for this job is the idea of citizenship. Citizenship is intimately linked to liberal ideas of individual rights and entitlements on the one hand, and to communitarian ideas of membership in and attachment to a particular community on the other. Thus it provides a concept that can mediate the debate between liberals and communitarians.
It is not surprising, therefore, that there has been an explosion of interest in the concept of citizenship amongst political theorists. In 1978, it could be confidently stated that ‘the concept of citizenship has gone out of fashion among political thinkers’ (van Gunsteren 1978: 9). By 1990, citizenship was the ‘buzzword’ amongst thinkers on all points of the political spectrum (Heater 1990: 293; Vogel and Moran 1991: p. x).
Interest in citizenship has been sparked not only by these theoretical developments, but also by a number of recent political events and trends throughout the world—increasing voter apathy and long-term welfare dependency in the United States, the resurgence of nationalist movements in Eastern Europe, the stresses created by an increasingly multicultural and multiracial population in Western Europe, the backlash against the welfare state in Thatcher’s England, the failure of environmental policies that rely on voluntary citizen cooperation, disaffection with globalization and the perceived loss of national sovereignty, etc.
These events have made clear that the health and stability of a modern p. 285↵democracy depends, not only on the justice of its basic institutions, but also on the qualities and attitudes of its citizens: e.g. their sense of identity, and how they view potentially competing forms of national, regional, ethnic, or religious identities; their ability to tolerate and work together with others who are different from themselves; their desire to participate in the political process in order to promote the public good and hold political authorities accountable; their willingness to show self-restraint and exercise personal responsibility in their economic demands, and in personal choices which affect their health and the environment. Without citizens who possess these qualities, democracies become difficult to govern, even unstable.1 As Habermas notes, ‘the institutions of constitutional freedom are only worth as much as a population makes of them’ (Habermas 1992: 7).
Many classical liberals believed that a liberal democracy could function effectively even in the absence of an especially virtuous citizenry, by creating checks and balances. Institutional and procedural devices such as the separation of powers, a bicameral legislature, and federalism would all serve to block would-be oppressors. Even if each person pursued her own self-interest, without regard for the common good, one set of private interests would check another set of private interests. Kant, for example, thought that the problem of good government ‘can be solved even for a race of devils’ (quoted in Galston 1991: 215).2 However, it has become clear that procedural-institutional mechanisms to balance self-interest are not enough, and that some level of civic virtue and public-spiritedness is required (Galston 1991: 217, 244; Macedo 1990: 138–9).
Consider the many ways that public policy relies on responsible personal lifestyle decisions: the state will be unable to provide adequate health care if citizens do not act responsibly with respect to their own health, in terms of maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and limiting their consumption of liquor and tobacco; the state will be unable to meet the needs of children, the elderly, or the disabled if citizens do not agree to share this responsibility by providing some care for their relatives; the state cannot protect the environment if citizens are unwilling to reduce, reuse, and recycle in their own consumer choices; the ability of the government to regulate the economy can be undermined if citizens borrow immoderate amounts or demand excessive salary increases; attempts to create a fairer society will flounder if citizens are chronically intolerant of difference and generally lacking in a sense of justice. Without cooperation and self-restraint in these areas, ‘the ability of liberal societies to function successfully progressively diminishes’ (Galston 1991: 220).
In short, we need ‘a fuller, richer and yet more subtle understanding and practice of citizenship’, because ‘what the state needs from the citizenry cannot be secured by coercion, but only cooperation and self-restraint in the exercise of private power’ (Cairns and Williams 1985: 43).
p. 286↵It is not surprising, therefore, that there should be increasing calls for ‘a theory of citizenship’. Political theorists in the 1970s and 1980s focused primarily on what Rawls called the ‘basic structure’ of society: constitutional rights, political decision-making procedures, social institutions. Indeed, as I noted in Chapter 2, Rawls says that this ‘basic structure’ is the primary subject of a theory of justice (Rawls 1971: 7–11). Today, however, it is widely accepted that political theorists must also pay attention to the qualities and dispositions of the citizens who operate within these institutions and procedures. Hence political theorists in the 1990s have focused on the identity and conduct of individual citizens, including their responsibilities, loyalties, and roles.
The need for such a theory of citizenship received dramatic support from Robert Putnam’s influential study of the performance of regional governments in Italy. He showed that these regional governments, set up in the postwar period, performed very differently, despite having more or less identical institutions. And it appears that the best explanation for the variation in performance was not differences in the income or education of the citizens, but rather in their civic virtue, what Putnam calls their ‘social capital’—their ability to trust, their willingness to participate, their sense of justice (Putnam 1993).
While Putnam’s particular study has been disputed (Sabetti 1996), the general point that the virtues and identities of citizens is an important and independent factor in democratic governance is now widely accepted. And it is also recognized that this requires political theorists to consider the need for what Sandel calls a ‘formative project’ or ‘formative politics’: i.e. for government policies to inculcate the appropriate sorts of qualities of character and civic virtues (Sandel 1996: 6, 305). And this in turn has led to a veritable flood of writings on issues of civic virtues and practices, civic participation, civic identities, and citizenship education.3
So a theory of citizenship is now widely seen as a necessary supplement to earlier theories of institutional justice. In fact, some suggest that the former eliminates or at least lessens the need for the latter. As the previous chapters make clear, there are deep and abiding disagreements over the norms of distributive justice, and over the appropriate forms of redistributive policies. This means that no single theory of justice can be expected to gain complete consensus in modern democratic societies. There is, therefore, relatively little point engaging in ever-greater refinements of these theories. What we should do instead is to develop better theories of democratic citizenship, which tell us how active, informed, and responsible citizens debate and resolve their disagreements, including disagreements over theories of instutitional justice (Fishkin 1996; Tully 2000: 469).
I am sceptical that theories of democratic citizenship can take the place of theories of justice. For one thing, as we will see, we need to appeal to p. 287↵principles of justice to help resolve disagreements about how to promote civic virtue and political participation. This means that disagreements about justice will spill over into disagreements about citizenship. Indeed, ‘new’ debates over citizenship are often ‘old’ debates over justice dressed up in new clothing. In any event, I will discuss theories of citizenship as an important supplement to, rather than a replacement for, theories of justice: theories of citizenship identify the virtues and practices needed to promote and maintain the sorts of institutions and policies defended within theories of justice.
In this chapter, I will examine some of the key issues relating to theories of citizenship. I will first try to clarify what sorts of virtues and practices are said to be required by democratic citizens (s. 1). In the literature, the term ‘civic republican’ is often used to describe anyone who takes seriously the need for civic virtue. But there are two very different forms of civic republicanism: a classical view which emphasizes the intrinsic value of political participation, and a liberal view which emphasizes its instrumental importance. I will compare these two views in sections 2 and 3, and then consider how liberal states can in fact try to promote the appropriate forms of citizenship virtues and practices (s. 4).
1. The Virtues and Practices of Democratic Citizens
Before describing the new work on citizenship, it is necessary to quickly outline the view of citizenship that is implicit in much post-war political theory, and that is defined almost entirely in terms of the possession of rights. The most influential exposition of this post-war conception of citizenship-as-rights is T. H. Marshall’s ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, written in 1949.4 According to Marshall, citizenship is essentially a matter of ensuring that everyone is treated as a full and equal member of society. And the way to ensure this sense of membership is through according people an increasing number of citizenship rights.
Marshall divides citizenship rights into three categories which he sees as having taken hold in England in three successive centuries: civil rights, which arose in the eighteenth century; political rights, which arose in the nineteenth century; and social rights—e.g. to public education, health care, unemployment insurance, and old-age pension—which have become established in the twentieth century (Marshall 1965: 78ff.).5 And with the expansion of the rights of citizenship, he notes, there was also an expansion of the class of citizens. Civil and political rights that had been restricted to white property-owning Protestant men were gradually extended to women, the working class, Jews and Catholics, blacks, and other previously excluded groups.
p. 288↵For Marshall, the fullest expression of citizenship requires a liberal-democratic welfare state. By guaranteeing civil, political, and social rights to all, the welfare state ensures that every member of society feels like a full member of society, able to participate in and enjoy the common life of society. Where any of these rights are withheld or violated, people will be marginalized and unable to participate.
This is often called ‘passive’ or ‘private’ citizenship, because of its emphasis on passive entitlements, and the absence of any obligation to participate in public life. It is still widely supported. When asked what citizenship means to them, people are much more likely to talk about rights than responsibilities or participation. For most people, citizenship is, as the American Supreme Court once put it, ‘the right to have rights’.6
It is quite understandable why people support this model of citizenship-as-rights. As Stephen Macedo puts it, ‘the benefits of private citizenship are not to be sneezed at: they place certain basic human goods (security, prosperity, and freedom) within the grasp of nearly all, and that is nothing less than a fantastic human achievement’ (Macedo 1990: 39).
Nevertheless, this orthodox post-war conception of citizenship has come increasingly under attack in the last decade. Many commentators argue that we need to supplement (or replace) the passive acceptance of citizenship rights with the active exercise of citizenship responsibilities and virtues, including economic self-reliance, political participation, and even civility. (Marshall’s view has also been criticized for failing to properly recognize and accommodate the social and cultural pluralism of modern societies. I will discuss these calls for a more ‘multicultural’ or ‘group-differentiated’ model of citizenship in the next chapter on multiculturalism.)
The first task for theorists of citizenship was to specify more concretely the sorts of civic virtues required for a flourishing democracy. According to William Galston’s influential account, responsible citizenship requires four types of civic virtues: (i) general virtues: courage; law-abidingness; loyalty; (ii) social virtues: independence; open-mindedness; (iii) economic virtues: work ethic; capacity to delay self-gratification; adaptability to economic and technological change; and (iv) political virtues: capacity to discern and respect the rights of others; willingness to demand only what can be paid for; ability to evaluate the performance of those in office; willingness to engage in public discourse (Galston 1991: 221–4).7
Many of these virtues—particularly the general and economic virtues—are needed in virtually any political order, whether it is large or small, agrarian or industrialized, democratic or authoritarian, pluralistic or homogeneous. For this reason, the concern with civic virtue is in fact a very old one in the history of Western political thought, even when political communities were much smaller and more homogeneous. But modern theories of citizenship must p. 289↵respond to the realities of contemporary pluralistic societies. The sorts of civic virtues required for a large, pluralistic modern society, and the appropriate means to promote them, may differ from those required for a small, homogeneous pre-modern city-state.
Thus much of the current debate has been focused on those virtues which are distinctive to modern pluralistic liberal democracies, relating to the basic principles of a liberal regime, and to the political role citizens occupy within it. These virtues include the ability and willingness to question political authority, and to engage in public discourse about matters of public policy. These are perhaps the most distinctive aspects of citizenship in a liberal democracy, since they are precisely what distinguish ‘citizens’ within a democracy from the ‘subjects’ of an authoritarian regime.
The need to question authority arises in part from the fact that citizens in a representative democracy elect representatives who govern in their name. Hence an important responsibility of citizens is to monitor those officials, and judge their conduct. The need to engage in public discourse arises from the fact that the decisions of government in a democracy should be made publicly, through free and open discussion. But the virtue of public discourse is not just the willingness to participate in politics, or to make one’s views known. It also involves the willingness to engage in a conversation: to listen as well as to speak, to seek to understand what others say, and to respond respectfully to the views of others, so as to continue the conversation.8
As William Galston notes, this willingness to engage in public discourse is a complicated virtue. It ‘includes the willingness to listen seriously to a range of views which, given the diversity of liberal societies, will include ideas the listener is bound to find strange and even obnoxious. The virtue of political discourse also includes the willingness to set forth one’s own views intelligibly and candidly as the basis for a politics of persuasion rather than manipulation or coercion’ (Galston 1991: 227).
This is often called the virtue of ‘public reasonableness’. Liberal citizens must give reasons for their political demands, not just state preferences or make threats. Moreover, these reasons must be ‘public’ reasons, in the sense that they are capable of being understood and accepted by people of different faiths and cultures. Hence it is not enough to invoke Scripture or tradition. Liberal citizens must justify their political demands in terms that fellow citizens can understand and accept as consistent with their status as free and equal citizens. It requires a conscientious effort to distinguish those beliefs which are matters of private faith from those which are capable of public defence, and to see how issues look from the point of view of those with differing religious commitments and cultural backgrounds.
It is not always clear how we are to identify what qualifies as a ‘public reason’—this has been a subject of great dispute.9 And on most views, public p. 290↵reasons will not always be able to resolve the disputes between adherents of different religious and cultural traditions. At some point, the public reasons may simply run out, and we will be left with conflicting claims based on religious or cultural beliefs that are not publicly shareable. In these circumstances, we need to cultivate the related virtue of accommodation or compromise. For example, some commentators have suggested that public reasons may not be able to fully resolve disputes over abortion, and that the only reasonable response is therefore some sort of compromise.10
This particular conception of public reasonableness—one that requires citizens to consider which of their religious beliefs or cultural traditions are capable of public defence, and to seek honourable compromises when public reasons run out—is distinctly modern. Its prominence in the recent literature on citizenship is partly related to the recognition that modern societies are ethnically and religiously diverse.
But it also reflects another important shift in contemporary democratic theory, from ‘vote-centric’ to ‘talk-centric’ theories of democracy. In much of the post-war period, democracy was understood almost exclusively in terms of voting. Citizens were assumed to have a set of preferences, fixed prior to and independent of the political process, and the function of voting was simply to provide a fair decision-making procedure or aggregation mechanism for translating these pre-existing preferences into public decisions, either about who to elect (in standard elections) or about what laws to adopt (in issue-specific referenda).
But it is increasingly accepted that this ‘aggregative’ or ‘vote-centric’ conception of democracy cannot fulfil norms of democratic legitimacy. For one thing, since preferences are assumed to be formed independently of and prior to the political process, it provides no opportunity for citizens to try to persuade others of the merits of their views, or the legitimacy of their claims. Similarly, it provides no opportunity for citizens to distinguish claims based on self-interest, prejudice, ignorance, or fleeting whims from those grounded in principles of justice or fundamental needs. There is in fact no public dimension to the process at all. While citizens may need to physically leave their homes to go to the ballot box, the aggregative vote-centric model does not expect or encourage citizens to meet in public to discuss and debate their reasons for the claims they make. Indeed, with new technology, it is quite possible to have a form of aggregative democracy in which citizens never leave their home, and vote through the Internet.
As a result, the outcome of the aggregative model has only the thinnest veneer of legitimacy. It provides a mechanism for determining winners and losers, but no mechanism for developing a consensus, or shaping public opinion, or even formulating an honourable compromise. Consider citizens who believe that their claims are based on fundamental principles of justice, yet p. 291↵who are outvoted in an aggregative democracy. They have not been offered any reason for believing that they are mistaken about the justice of their claims. They have had no opportunity to persuade others of this claim, or to be persuaded by others that they are mistaken. They have simply been outnumbered. Many studies have shown that citizens will accept the legitimacy of collective decisions that go against them, but only if they think their arguments and reasons have been given a fair hearing, and that others have taken seriously what they have to say. But if there is no room for such a fair hearing, then people will question the legitimacy of decisions. This is particularly true for people belonging to a marginalized minority group, who know in advance that they have little hope of winning a majority vote. They may in effect be permanently excluded from exercising any real power within the system.
To overcome these shortcomings of the vote-centric approach, democratic theorists are increasingly focusing on the processes of deliberation and opinion formation that precede voting. Theorists have shifted their attention from what goes on in the voting booth to what goes on in the public deliberations of civil society. John Dryzek, one of the founders of this new model of democracy, calls this the ‘deliberative turn’ in democratic theory, which he dates to around 1990—not coincidentally, the same time as the turn towards theories of citizenship (Dryzek 2000: p. v).11 A more deliberative democracy would, it is hoped, bring several benefits for society at large as well as for individuals and groups within society.12 The collective benefits for society would include better decisions, since the decision-making process would draw forth the otherwise unarticulated knowledge and insights of citizens, and since citizens would test and discard those assumptions or beliefs which were found in public debate to be wrong or short-sighted or otherwise indefensible.13 It would also lead to greater unity and solidarity in society. For one thing, political decision-making would be seen as more legitimate since everyone would have a fair chance to have their views heard and considered. Moreover, the very fact that people share the experience of deliberating in common provides a tangible bond that connects citizens and encourages greater mutual understanding and empathy. In a deliberative democracy, we would seek to change other people’s behaviour only through non-coercive discussion of their claims, rather than through manipulation, indoctrination, propaganda, deception, or threats. This is a sign of mutual respect (Dryzek 2000: 2), or indeed of civic friendship (Blattberg 2000).
We might even hope that this shared deliberation would sometimes lead to greater agreement on various important issues, as seemingly implacable disagreements turn out to be based on misunderstandings or incomplete information, and that we would converge on a ‘common ordering of individual needs and wants into a single vision of the future in which all can share’ p. 292↵(Barber 1984: 224). For most deliberative democrats, however, this sort of consensus is at best a happy but occasional by-product of deliberation, not its presupposition or goal—deliberating about our differences is not the same as eliminating our differences.14
(This means, of course, that deliberative democracy cannot entirely do away with the sorts of ‘aggregative’ procedures emphasized by the earlier model of democracy. At the end of the day, after the arguments are duly considered, some voting or electoral procedure is needed for resolving the remaining disagreements.)
So ‘deliberative democracy’ promises benefits to the larger society. But it offers particular benefits to minority or marginalized groups. If such groups are to have any real influence in a majoritarian electoral system, and any reason to accept the legitimacy of the system, it will be through participating in the formation of public opinion, rather than through winning a majority vote. As Simone Chambers puts it, ‘voice rather than votes is the vehicle of empowerment’ (Chambers 2001). This seems clear from the recent advances made by groups such as gays and lesbians, the deaf, or indigenous peoples, who account for less than 5 per cent of the overall electorate. Their empowerment has largely come through participating in a public debate that has transformed the pre-existing assumptions held by members of the larger society about what is right and fair for these groups. If democracy is to help promote justice for these groups, rather than leaving them subject to the ‘tyranny of the majority’ (or the indifference and neglect of the majority), then democracy will have to be more deliberative. As a result, a wide range of theorists—liberals, communitarians, critical theorists, feminists, multiculturalists—have identified the need for greater deliberation as one of the key priorities for modern democracies.15
Much more could be said about this new deliberative model of democracy. In particular, what are the appropriate forums for deliberation? At what levels should these forums exist—local, national, or supranational? Should these forums be issue specific or general? How do we ensure that all groups and views are adequately represented in these forums? Is the goal to make existing mechanisms of voting, referenda, electoral representation, and judicial decision-making more deliberative, or to create new forums for deliberation, such as ‘deliberative polls’, ‘citizen juries’, town hall meetings, or constituent assemblies? Theorists have just begun to address these complex questions about the implementation of deliberative democracy. And it has become clear that the answers to these questions will depend, at least in part, on our theories of justice.16 Libertarians and liberal egalitarians will differ, for example, on whether campaign financing should be regulated to ensure an ‘equal voice’ in democratic deliberations.
The key point for us, however, is that this shift to a more deliberative model p. 293↵of democracy makes it even more urgent to attend to issues of civic virtue. On the aggregative model, citizens were assumed to act in a private and more or less self-interested way: any interaction with others was assumed to reflect strategic behaviour about how best to get one’s way (e.g. through bargaining or log-rolling). On the deliberative model, however, citizens are assumed to act in public with the goal of mutual understanding, and not just to act strategically for personal benefit.17 This is obviously a more demanding picture of the requirements of democratic citizenship. Democratic citizens must be not only active and participatory, critical of authority, and non-dogmatic, but also committed to seeking mutual understanding through deliberation rather than exclusively seeking personal benefit through bargaining or threats. Without citizens who display these virtues, liberal democracy cannot fulfil its promise of justice, and may indeed slowly succumb to undemocratic or illiberal forces.
Of course, it is not necessary that every citizen display all of these virtues to a high degree. A liberal democracy may not be possible for a society of devils, but nor does it require a society of angels. It would be more accurate to say that liberal justice requires a critical threshold: there must be a sufficient number of citizens who possess these virtues to a sufficient degree. Where to set this threshold is obviously a complicated question, which cannot be answered in the abstract.
But wherever we set the threshold, there are many people who think that we are dangerously close to falling below it. Moreover, the trends do not look good. There appears to be a general decline in people’s commitment to public participation, respectful dialogue, or critical attention to government (Walzer 1992a: 90). Many people today seem to be alienated from, or simply indifferent to, the political process. According to a recent survey, for example, only 12 per cent of American teenagers said voting was important to being a good citizen. Moreover, this apathy is not just a function of youth—comparisons with similar surveys from the previous fifty years suggest that ‘the current cohort knows less, cares less, votes less, and is less critical of its leaders and institutions than young people have been at any time over the past five decades’ (Glendon 1991: 129). The evidence from Great Britain is similar (Heater 1990: 215).
What we see, in short, is growing awareness of the importance of civic virtues, at the same time as there is growing fear that these virtues are in decline. We see a growing emphasis on the need for people to be active citizens who participate in public deliberation, at the same time we see a trend toward greater apathy, passivity, and withdrawal into the private sphere of family, career and personal projects.
How then can we overcome this ‘syndrome of civic privatism’ (Habermas 1996: 78), and encourage citizens to live up to the demands of democratic citizenship, and display the civic virtues it requires? This is the central question which has occupied the school of thought known as ‘civic republicanism’. (The term ‘republicanism’ is not, of course, a reference to the Republican Party in the United States, but rather is intended to evoke images of the city-state republics of classical Athens and Rome or Renaissance Florence, which are widely believed to have successfully encouraged active and publicly spirited citizenship.)
However, civic republicans answer this question of how to promote active citizenship in very different ways. To oversimplify, we can say there are two camps within contemporary civic republicanism. One camp tries to persuade people to accept the burdens of democratic citizenship by persuading them that these are not in fact ‘burdens’. The activities of political participation and public deliberation, on this view, should not be seen as a burdensome obligation or duty, but rather as intrinsically rewarding. People should happily embrace the call of democratic citizenship because the life of an active citizen is indeed the highest life available to us. We can call this the ‘Aristotelian’ interpretation of republicanism, since Aristotle was one of the first and most influential proponents of this view about the intrinsic value of political participation.
The second camp avoids making any claims about the intrinsic value of political participation, and accepts that for many people, the call of democratic citizenship may indeed be felt as a burden. It emphasizes however that there are powerful instrumental reasons why we should accept this burden, in order to maintain the functioning of our democratic institutions, and to preserve our basic liberties.18
I will discuss this ‘instrumental’ interpretation of republicanism in the next section. In this section, I will focus on the Aristotelian version. The distinguishing feature of this view is its emphasis on the intrinsic value of political participation for the participants themselves. Such participation is, in Adrian Oldfield’s words, ‘the highest form of human living-together that most individuals can aspire to’ (Oldfield 1990b: 6). On this view, political life is superior to the merely private pleasures of family, neighbourhood, and profession, and so should occupy the centre of people’s lives. Failure to participate in politics makes one a ‘radically incomplete and stunted being’ (Oldfield 1990a: 187; cf. Pocock 1992: 45, 53; Skinner 1992; Beiner 1992).
This is obviously another example of the sort of ‘perfectionist’ approach which I discussed last chapter, premised on a particular view about what p. 295↵makes lives truly excellent or truly human (Ch. 6, s. 4). Hence liberals will view it, like all forms of state perfectionism, as unfairly privileging one particular conception of the good life over others. I will return to this concern below. In any event, this view about the value of political participation is difficult to accept. As even its proponents admit, this view is markedly at odds with the way most people in the modern world understand the good life. Most people find the greatest happiness in their family life, work, religion, or leisure, not in politics. Some people find political participation fulfilling and satisfying, but for most people, it is seen as an occasional, and often burdensome, activity needed to ensure that government respects and supports their freedom to pursue these personal occupations and attachments. This assumption that politics is primarily a means to private life is shared by most people on all points of the political spectrum, whether the left (Ignatieff 1989: 72–3), right (Mead 1986: 254), liberals (Rawls 1971: 229–30), civil society theorists (Walzer 1989: 215), or feminists (Elshtain 1981: 327).
This in fact reflects one of the defining features of modern life, which is expressed in Benjamin Constant’s famous distinction between ancient and modern freedom. The liberty of the ancients, Constant argued, was their active participation in the exercise of political power, not the peaceful enjoyment of personal independence. The Athenians were free men because they were collectively self-governing, although they lacked personal independence and civil liberties, and were expected to sacrifice their pleasures for the sake of the polis. The liberty of the moderns, on the other hand, lies in the unimpeded pursuit of happiness in their personal occupations and attachments, which requires freedom from the exercise of political power (typically through some set of constitutionally protected civil rights and liberties). Whereas the ancients sacrificed private liberty to promote political life, moderns view politics as a means (and somewhat of a sacrifice) needed to protect their private life.
Aristotelian republicans are trying, in effect, to reverse this historic shift, and to restore the primacy of the ‘liberty of the ancients’ to our conceptions of the good life. One can try to do this in two ways: either by celebrating the intrinsic value of political participation, or by denigrating the value of private life. Most Aristotelian republicans adopt a mixture of both strategies.
Some people have argued that the modern emphasis on ‘private’ life is antisocial, and a denial of our inherently social nature. According to Marx, for example, the individual rights emphasized by liberals are the freedoms of ‘a man treated as an isolated monad withdrawn into himself … [T]he right of man to freedom is not based on the union of man with man, but on the separation of man from man. It is the right to this separation’ (Marx 1977b: 53). Aristotelian republicans similarly complain that the liberal valorizing of ‘private’ life is a form of ‘atomism’, and defend political participation as a p. 296↵way of fulfilling our intrinsic human need for social bonds and relationships.
In fact, however, as we saw in the previous chapter, the flip side of liberalism’s distrust of politics is its positive endorsement of social life and civil society. As Nancy Rosenblum notes, the liberal view of private liberty actually presupposes our natural sociability:
Private life means life in civil society, not some presocial state of nature or antisocial condition of isolation and detachment … private liberty provides escape from the surveillance and interference of public officials, multiplying possibilities for private associations and combinations … far from inviting apathy, private liberty is supposed to encourage public discussion and the formation of groups that give individuals access to wider social contexts and access to government. (Rosenblum 1987: 61)
When the state leaves people in the ‘perfect independence’ of private life, it does not leave them in isolation, but rather leaves them free to form and maintain ‘associations and combinations’, or what Rawls calls ‘free social unions’. Because we are social animals, individuals will use their freedom to join with others in the pursuit of shared ends. Modern freedom, for Constant, was indeed based on the ‘union of man with man’, but he believed that the union of men arising from free association in civil society was more genuine, and more free, than the coerced unity of political associations. The liberal ideal of private life was not to protect the individual from society, but to free society from political interference. It is more accurate to view liberalism, not as antisocial, but as ‘the glorification of society’, for liberals ‘rated social life the highest form of human achievement and the vital condition for the development of morality and rationality’, while the political was reduced to ‘the harsh symbol of the coercion necessary to sustain orderly social transactions’ (Wolin 1960: 363, 369, 291; cf. Holmes 1989: 248; Schwartz 1979: 245).
To defend Aristotelian republicanism, therefore, it is not enough to show that individuals require society to lead a truly human life—liberals do not deny this. Aristotelian republicans must go beyond this and show that individuals need to be politically active. As we saw in Chapter 6 (s. 8), this distinction between participating in society and participating in politics has often been obscured by communitarian critiques of liberal ‘atomism’. But when Aristotle said that men were zoon politikon, he did not mean simply that men are social animals. On the contrary, ‘the natural, merely social companionship of the human species was considered to be a limitation imposed upon us by the needs of biological life, which are the same for the human animal as for other forms of animal life’ (Arendt 1959: 24). Political life, on the other hand, was different from, and higher than, our merely social life.
Aristotelian republicans have made attempts to challenge the liberal glorification of society, and to reinstate politics as a higher form of life. But the p. 297↵liberal view pervades the modern age. Whereas the Greeks felt that ‘under no circumstances could politics be only a means to protect society’, modern theorists assume that politics should serve society, although they disagree on what kind of society politics should serve. It may be ‘a society of the faithful, as in the middle ages, or a society of property-owners, as in Locke, or a society relentlessly engaged in a process of acquisition, as in Hobbes, or a society of producers, as in Marx, or a society of job-holders, as in our society, or a society of labourers, as in socialist and communist countries. In all these cases, it is the freedom … of society which requires and justifies the restraint of political authority. Freedom is located in the realm of the social, and force or violence becomes the monopoly of government’ (Arendt 1959: 31). This is one of those cases, like the commitment to moral equality, where liberalism has simply won the historical debate, and all subsequent debate occurs, in a sense, within the boundaries of basic liberal commitments.
In order to explain the modern indifference to the intrinsic value of political participation, republicans often argue that political life today has become impoverished, compared to the active citizenship of, say, ancient Greece. Political life has become too large in scale, or too manipulated by money, or too stage-managed by the media, or too dominated by ‘experts’, to be rewarding for most citizens. On this view, if we could create forums for political action at a more human scale (like the face-to-face politics of ancient Athens), and prevent these forums from being colonized by the imperatives of money, media entertainment, or bureaucratic expertise, then people would find politics much more rewarding than they do now. And this republican argument for smaller-scale political forums nicely dovetails with the arguments of deliberative democrats, who also endorse such forums as the best way to put ‘public talk’ rather than ‘private voting’ at the heart of the political process.
On this view, the main problem facing Aristotelian republicanism is essentially a problem of transition. If deliberative democratic forums were already in place, then people would find it rewarding to participate in them. But how do we get from here to there? The people who currently benefit from the rule of money, expertise, and media ratings are not going to voluntarily give up their positions of power. So the needed political reforms will only occur if average citizens participate and mobilize for reforms that will strengthen their role in the political process. But since existing political institutions are frustrating and stultifying, few people are willing to participate.19
My own view, however, is that even if these more deliberative forums were created, there would still be many people who would find political life a sacrifice. Aristotelian republicans assume that people have turned away from political participation because they find politics unfulfilling. Our attachment to private life, I believe, is the result, not (or not only) of the impoverishment of public life, but of the enrichment of private life. We no longer seek p. 298↵gratification in politics because our personal and social life is so much richer than that of the ancient Greeks.
There are many reasons for this historical change, including the rise of romantic love and the nuclear family (and its emphasis on intimacy and privacy); increased prosperity (and hence richer forms of leisure and consumption); the Christian commitment to the dignity of labour (which the Greeks despised); and the growing dislike for war (which the Greeks esteemed). The Greeks viewed the private sphere as a sphere of ‘privation’ (this indeed is the origin of the word ‘private’), and saw little of value in it (if indeed they had any comparable concept of the ‘private’ at all). But we ‘moderns’ can find immense joys in intimacy, love, leisure, consumption, and work.
Aristotelian republicans insist that those passive citizens who find greater pleasure in the joys of family and career than in politics are somehow misguided and ‘stunted’. But what is the basis for such a claim? I do not believe that Aristotelian republicans have offered any plausible defence of their conception of the good life. For example, after asserting that political life is ‘the highest form of human living-together that most individuals can aspire to’, Oldfield goes on to say: ‘I shall not argue for this moral point. It has in any case been argued many times within the corpus of civic republican writing’ (1990b: 6). But as I have just noted, these historical defences of the primacy of political life emerged at a time when people saw the private sphere as a sphere of privation. As Galston puts it, Aristotelian republicans who denigrate private life as tedious and self-absorbed show no delight in real communities of people, and indeed are ‘contemptuous’ of everyday life (Galston 1991: 58–63).20 (As we will see in Chapter 9, this Aristotelian republican contempt for the private sphere is also historically tied up with contempt for women—see Vogel 1991: 68; Young 1989: 253; Phillips 1991: 49; 2000).
Aristotelian republicanism is sometimes called a form of ‘communitarianism’, and indeed it can be seen as a kind of second-order communitarianism. On the traditional communitarian view of a ‘politics of the common good’, people enter politics in order to promote certain already-existing shared ends, based on a common faith or traditional way of life. Aristotelian republicanism, by contrast, need not assume that people have any pre-political common ends. It can accept the fact that people in their private life do not share a common set of ends, and that there will be no consensus amongst citizens about the appropriate goals of public policy. It assumes, however, that political participation itself can come to be seen as the shared good. The ‘common good’ to be promoted through political participation is not some pre-political cultural practice or tradition, but the intrinsic value of political participation itself.
But any such attempt to privilege a single conception of the good life is bound to fail in modern societies. Given the deep and enduring differences p. 299↵amongst citizens in their views of the good life, we cannot expect a consensus on the intrinsic value of political activities, or the relative importance of political activities as compared to activities in the social or personal sphere. People disagree not only about the value of pre-political practices and traditions, but also about the intrinsic value of political participation itself. The ‘fact of pluralism’ defeats not only traditional communitarianism, but also the revival of Aristotelian republicanism.21
3. Instrumental Virtues
As a result, liberals cannot accept the doctrine of Aristotelian republicanism. This doctrine could only be implemented through a coercive form of state perfectionism, in which the government pre-empts and constrains individuals’ own judgements about the good life. This violates liberal commitments to individual autonomy and state neutrality.
However, this does not mean that liberals can be indifferent to the quality or quantity of political participation. On the contrary, as we have seen, liberal democracy and liberal justice require a critical threshold of active and responsible participation. For liberals, however, these virtues are defended and promoted precisely in terms of their instrumental importance in sustaining just institutions, rather than in terms of their intrinsic value for participants.
Rawls distinguishes between republicanism and ‘civic humanism’. According to republicanism, certain political virtues must be promoted amongst citizens in order to prevent the degeneration of liberal democracy into tyranny or religious/nationalist fanaticism. Rawls notes that this justification for promoting civic virtues is entirely consistent with his view of liberalism, since virtues are defended as preconditions for liberal justice. By contrast, ‘civic humanism’ (or what I have called Aristotelian republicanism) asserts that political virtues should be promoted because our ‘essential nature’ is realized in political life, which is the ‘privileged locus of the good life’. As Rawls notes, there is a ‘fundamental opposition’ between liberal egalitarianism and civic humanism, since civic humanists defend virtues on the basis of a particular conception of the good life, not on grounds of justice.22
So liberals will offer a different, more modest and more instrumental, account of civic virtue. On this account, it is accepted that people will have differing views about the intrinsic value of political participation, and that some people will find their greatest joys and projects in other areas of life, including the family, work, the arts, or religion. A liberal democracy must respect such diverse conceptions of the good life, as far as possible, and should not compel people to adopt a conception of the good life which privileges political participation as the source of meaning or satisfaction.
p. 300↵Therefore, liberals, while concerned to ensure a critical threshold of active citizenship, will accept that many people are more or less apolitical, and will try to limit the demands of active citizenship so as to accommodate these conceptions of the good life. To be sure, liberal citizens should recognize an obligation to create just institutions where these are absent, or to uphold these institutions where they are threatened. But this obligation is, for many people, an episodic one, strongest in times of crises, constitutional change, or external threat.23 If there are serious injustices in our society which can only be rectified by political action, then citizens should recognize an obligation to protest against that injustice. Or if our political institutions are no longer functioning, perhaps due to excessive levels of apathy, or to the abuse of power, then citizens have an obligation to protect these institutions from being undermined. To sit passively by while injustices are committed, or democratic institutions collapse, in the hope that others will step in, is to be a free-rider. Everyone should do their fair share to create and uphold just institutions.
However, the extent of injustice, and the health of political institutions, will vary from time to time, and from society to society. In some times and places, though perhaps only in fortunate circumstances, our natural duty of justice will not require us to participate actively. Where a society is basically well ordered, and its institutions healthy, then individuals should be free to follow their own conceptions of the good, even if these give little or no weight to political participation.
So there will be times and places where minimal citizenship is all that we can or should require. In one sense, this reduces the need for civic virtue. For example, the stringent demands of ‘public reasonableness’ will be less significant for those who do not participate politically. But in another sense, the liberal commitment to civil society as the arena for pursuing the good life generates its own issues of civic virtue. Just as the state cannot function properly without some threshold of political virtues amongst active citizens (such as public reasonableness, and a critical attitude to authority), so too civil society cannot function properly without some threshold of social virtues amongst passive citizens.
The obligations of passive or minimal citizenship are often described in purely negative terms—i.e. the obligation not to break the law, and not to harm others, or restrict their rights and liberties. Minimal citizenship, in short, is often seen as simply requiring non-interference with others (e.g. McLaughlin 1992a). But that ignores one of the most basic requirements of liberal citizenship, which is the social virtue of ‘civility’ or ‘decency’. This is a virtue that even the most minimal citizen must learn, since it applies not only to political activity, but also—indeed, primarily—to our actions in everyday life, on the street, in neighbourhood shops, and in the diverse institutions and forums of civil society.
p. 301↵Civility refers to the way we treat non-intimates with whom we come into face-to-face contact. To understand civility, it is helpful to compare it with the related requirement of non-discrimination. The legal prohibition on discrimination initially only applied to government actions. Government laws and policies which discriminated against people on the basis of race or gender have gradually been struck down in Western democracies, since they violate the basic liberal commitment to equality of opportunity. But it has become clear that whether individuals have genuinely equal opportunity depends not only on government actions, but also on the actions of institutions within civil society—corporations, schools, stores, landlords, etc. If people are discriminated against by prejudiced shop-owners or real-estate agents, they will be denied equal citizenship, even if the state itself does not discriminate. Hence legal requirements of non-discrimination have increasingly been applied to ‘private’ firms and associations.
This extension of non-discrimination from government to civil society is not just a shift in the scale of liberal norms, it also involves a radical extension in the obligations of liberal citizenship. For the obligation to treat people as equal citizens now applies to the most common everyday decisions of individuals. It is no longer permissible for businesses to refuse to hire black employees, or serve black customers, or to segregate their black employees or customers. But not just that. The norms of non-discrimination also entail that it is impermissible for businesses to ignore their black customers, or treat them rudely, although it is not always possible to enforce this legally. Businesses must in effect make blacks feel welcome, just as if they were whites. Blacks must, in short, be treated with civility. The same applies to the way citizens treat each other in schools or recreational associations, even in private clubs.
This sort of civility is the logical extension of non-discrimination, since it is needed to ensure that all citizens have the same opportunity to participate within civil society. But it now extends into the very hearts and minds of citizens. Liberal citizens must learn to interact in everyday settings on an equal basis with people for whom they might harbour prejudice.
The extent to which this requirement of civility can (or should) be legally enforced is limited. It is easier to compel businesses to be non-discriminatory in hiring than to compel them to treat black customers with civility. But the recent spread of laws and regulations against sexual and racial harassment, both in society generally and within schools and businesses, can be seen as an attempt to ensure a level of civility, since they include forms of hate speech as well as physical intimidation. And while it is obviously impossible to compel civility between citizens in less formal settings—e.g. whether whites smile or scowl at an Asian family in the neighbourhood park—liberal citizenship nonetheless requires this sort of civility.
p. 302↵It is easy to trivialize this requirement of civility as being simply ‘good manners’. Philip Rieff, for example, dismisses the insistence on civility as a superficial façade that simply hides a deeper indifference to the needs of others. As he puts it, ‘We have long known what “equality” means in American culture: it means … a smile fixed to the face, demanding you return a smile’ (quoted in Cuddihy 1978: 6). John Murray Cuddihy views civility as the imposition of a Protestant (and bourgeois) sense of ‘good taste’ on other religious groups. He argues that Catholics and Jews (and now Muslims) have had to abandon their conception of true faith, which required the public expression of contempt for other religions, to conform to this ‘religion of civility’.
It is true that in liberal societies the moral obligation of civility is sometimes confused with an aesthetic conception of ‘good manners’. For example, the expectation of civility is sometimes used to discourage the sort of forceful protest that may be needed for an oppressed group to be heard. For a disadvantaged group to ‘make a scene’ is often seen as ‘in bad taste’. This sort of exaggerated emphasis on good manners can be used to promote servility. True civility does not mean smiling at others no matter how badly they treat you, as if oppressed groups should be nice to their oppressors. Rather, it means treating others as equals on the condition that they extend the same recognition to you. While there is some overlap between civility and a more general politeness, they are nonetheless distinct—civility involves upholding norms of equality within the public life of a society, including civil society, and thereby upholding essential liberal values.24
4. The Seedbeds of Civic Virtue
So even if we reject Aristotelian republicanism, any plausible political theory must still have an instrumental concern for civic virtues. In particular, any theory concerned with democratic legitimacy and social justice must be concerned about the virtue of public reasonableness in political life, and the virtue of civility in civil society. Both of these virtues are needed for citizens to fulfil their natural duty of justice to create and uphold just institutions. Without such virtues, liberal democracy would be unable to achieve either justice or stability.
But how can we ensure that these instrumental virtues will be present? As Baier notes, ‘lists of productive virtues … do not tell us how to bring those virtues into being’ (Baier 1994: 222). And as we have seen, many people worry that Western democracies are falling below the critical threshold for civic virtue, with declining levels of participation and civility. What can be done to reverse these trends? What sort of ‘formative project’ can states undertake to promote these virtues (Sandel 1996: 6)?
p. 303↵One approach would be to try to impose a legal duty on people to exhibit these virtues. We might pass a law requiring everyone to vote, for example, or attend monthly neighbourhood meetings to discuss political affairs. There are a few countries which have such laws: Australia has a mandatory voting law; South Korea has a mandatory neighbourhood meeting law. But these are rather heavy-handed attempts to overcome ‘civic privatism’, and would do nothing by themselves to ensure that people participate actively or responsibly. Indeed, forcing citizens to engage in political activities they dislike may simply increase their resentment at the political process. In any event, it is difficult to see how the more diffuse virtues of civility or public reasonableness could be legally codified.
One might hope that the very act of political participation itself will teach people responsibility and toleration. Even if initially entered into involuntarily or grudgingly, political participation will expose people to new ideas and develop new sympathies and identities. This is a familiar theme in democratic theory, going back at least to Rousseau and J. S. Mill, who believed that political participation ‘enlarges the minds of individuals, familiarizes them with interests which lie beyond the immediacy of personal circumstance and environment, and encourages them to acknowledge that public concerns are the proper ones to which they should pay attention’ (Oldfield 1990a: 184).
Unfortunately, this faith in the educative function of participation seems overly optimistic. Emphasizing participation does not yet explain how to ensure that citizens participate responsibly—i.e. in a public-spirited, rather than self-interested or prejudiced, way (Mulgan 1991: 40–1). Empowered citizens may use their power irresponsibly by pushing for benefits and entitlements society cannot ultimately afford; or by voting themselves tax breaks and slashing assistance to the needy; or by ‘seeking scapegoats in the indolence of the poor, the strangeness of ethnic minorities, or the insolence and irresponsibility of modern women’ (Fierlbeck 1991: 592).
It is true that successful political participation requires the ability to create coalitions, which encourages a partial development of the virtues of justice and public reasonableness. No one can succeed in political life if they make no effort to listen to or accommodate the needs and views of others. But in many cases, a winning coalition can be built while ignoring the claims of marginalized groups. Indeed, if a significant portion of the population is prejudiced, then ignoring or attacking such groups may be the best route to political success.
So merely compelling political participation is unlikely to be a satisfactory solution to the problem of civic virtues. Instead, most scholars working on this topic have assumed that civic virtue must be promoted indirectly. Rather than have a state-imposed duty of participation or civic virtue, the approach has been to try to locate and strengthen the ‘seedbeds of civic virtue’. The goal p. 304↵is to identify those social institutions and practices which inculcate civic virtue, and then to see how these institutions and practices can be protected and strengthened.
What are the seedbeds of civic virtue? There are a variety of aspects of liberal society that can be seen as inculcating civic virtues, including the market, civic associations, and the family. Let me briefly look at each of these.
Theorists of the ‘New Right’ often praise the market as a school of civic virtue. Many Thatcher/Reagan reforms of the 1980s aimed to extend the scope of markets in people’s lives—through freer trade, deregulation, tax cuts, the weakening of trade unions, and reducing welfare benefits—in part in order to teach people the virtues of initiative and self-reliance. As we saw in Chapter 4, much of the recent right-wing attack on the welfare state has been formulated precisely in terms of citizenship. The welfare state was said to promote passivity amongst the poor, creating a culture of dependency, reducing citizens to passive dependants under bureaucratic tutelage. The market, by contrast, encourages people to be self-supporting. The New Right believes that being self-supporting is not only an important civic virtue in itself, but also a precondition for being accepted as a full member of society. By failing to meet the obligation to support themselves, the long-term unemployed are a source of shame for society as well as themselves (Mead 1986: 240).25 Failure to fulfil common obligations is as much an obstacle to full membership in society as the lack of equal rights. In these circumstances, ‘To obligate the dependent as others are obligated is essential to equality, not opposed to it. An effective welfare [policy] must include recipients in the common obligations of citizens rather than exclude them’ (Mead 1986: 12 f.).
According to the New Right, to promote active citizenship for all, we must go beyond Marshall’s emphasis on citizenship-as-rights or entitlements, and focus instead on people’s responsibility to earn a living. Since the welfare state erodes this responsibility the safety net should be cut back, and any remaining welfare benefits should have obligations tied to them, for example, through ‘workfare’ programmes, which require welfare recipients to work for their benefits, so as to reinforce the idea that citizens should be self-supporting.
So markets are seen as promoting a variety of important virtues: self-reliance, initiative, and full membership. Moreover, markets are said to encourage civility, since companies which refuse to hire black employees, or serve black customers, will be at a competitive disadvantage.
However, the limits of the market as a school of civic virtue are clear. Many market deregulations arguably made possible an era of unprecedented greed and economic irresponsibility, as evidenced by the savings-and-loan and junk bond scandals in America. Markets teach initiative, but not a sense of justice or social responsibility (Mulgan 1991: 39). And so long as a sizeable portion of p. 305↵the population harbours prejudices towards certain groups, then businesses will have an economic incentive to serve that market, by creating goods and services that exclude these groups.26 In any event, the market cannot teach those civic virtues specific to political participation and dialogue—e.g. the virtue of public reasonableness.
‘Civil-society theorists’ emphasize the necessity of civility and self-restraint to a healthy democracy, but deny that either the market or political participation is sufficient to teach these virtues. Instead, it is in the voluntary organizations of civil society—churches, families, unions, ethnic associations, cooperatives, environmental groups, neighbourhood associations, support groups, charities—that we learn the virtues of mutual obligation. As Michael Walzer puts it, ‘The civility that makes democratic politics possible can only be learned in the associational networks’ of civil society (Walzer 1992a: 104).
Because these groups are voluntary, failure to live up to the responsibilities that come with them is usually met simply with disapproval, rather than legal punishment. Yet because the disapproval comes from family, friends, colleagues, or comrades, it is in many ways a more powerful incentive to act responsibly than punishment by an impersonal state. It is here that ‘human character, competence, and capacity for citizenship are formed’, for it is here that we internalize the idea of personal responsibility and mutual obligation, and learn the voluntary self-restraint which is essential to truly responsible citizenship (Glendon 1991: 109).
The claim that civil society is the ‘seedbed of civic virtue’ (Glendon 1991: 109; 1995) is essentially an empirical claim, for which there is little hard evidence one way or the other. It is an old and venerable view, but it is not obviously true. It may be in the neighbourhood that we learn to be good neighbours, but neighbourhood associations also teach people to operate on the ‘NIMBY’ (not in my backyard) principle when it comes to the location of group homes or public works.27 Similarly, the family is often ‘a school of despotism’ that teaches male dominance over women (Okin 1992: 65); churches often teach deference to authority and intolerance of other faiths; ethnic groups often teach prejudice against other races, and so on.
Walzer recognizes that most people are ‘trapped in one or another subordinate relationship, where the “civility” they learn is deferential rather than independent and active’. In these circumstances, he says, we have to ‘reconstruct’ the associational network ‘under new conditions of freedom and equality’. Similarly, when the activities of some associations ‘are narrowly conceived, partial and particularist’, then ‘they need political correction’. Walzer calls his view ‘critical associationalism’ to signify that the associations of civil society may need to be reformed in the light of principles of citizenship (Walzer 1992a: 106–7).
But this may go too far in the other direction. Rather than supporting p. 306↵voluntary associations, this approach may unintentionally license wholesale intervention in them. It is one thing for governments to intervene to protect the rights of people inside and outside the group, if these rights are threatened. But do we want governments to reconstruct churches, for example, to make them more internally democratic, or to make sure that their members learn to be critical rather than deferential? And, in any event, wouldn’t reconstructing churches, families, or unions to make them more internally democratic start to undermine their essentially uncoerced and voluntary character, which is what supposedly made them the seedbeds of civic virtue?
Indeed, it would be unreasonable to expect churches to teach the virtue of public reasonableness. Public reasonableness is essential in political debate, but is unnecessary and sometimes undesirable in the private sphere. It would be absurd to ask church-goers to abstain from appealing to Scripture in deciding how to run their church.
Civil-society theorists demand too much of voluntary associations in expecting them to be the main school for, or a small-scale replica of, democratic citizenship. While these associations may teach civic virtue, that is typically not their raison d’être. The reason why people join churches, families, or ethnic organizations is not to learn civic virtue. It is rather to honour certain values, and enjoy certain human goods, and these motives may have little to do with the promotion of citizenship. To expect parents or priests to organize the internal life of their groups so as to maximally promote citizenship is to ignore why these groups exist in the first place. (Some associations, like the Boy Scouts, are designed to promote citizenship, but they are the exception not the rule.)28
A similar issue arises with theorists of ‘maternal citizenship’, who focus on the family, and mothering in particular, as the school of responsibility and virtue. According to Jean Elshtain and Sara Ruddick, mothering teaches women about the responsibility to conserve life and protect the vulnerable, and these lessons should become the guiding principles of political life as well. For example, mothering involves a ‘metaphysical attitude’ of ‘holding’, which gives priority to the protection of existing relationships over the acquisition of new benefits (Ruddick 1987: 242). This has obvious implications for decisions about war or the environment.
I will discuss these theories of maternal citizenship, and related accounts of ‘the ethics of care’, in Chapter 9. However, it is doubtful whether mothering involves the same attributes or virtues as democratic citizenship, and some critics have argued that there is no evidence that maternal attitudes such as ‘holding’ promote democratic values such as ‘active citizenship, self-government, egalitarianism, and the exercise of freedom’ (Dietz 1985: 30; Nauta 1992: 31; Mouffe 1992a). As Dietz puts it, ‘An enlightened despotism, a welfare-state, a single-party bureaucracy and a democratic republic may all p. 307↵respect mothers, protect children’s lives and show compassion for the vulnerable’ (Dietz 1992: 76). Similarly, it is difficult to see how the virtues appropriate for the intimate relation between mother and child can be translated into the virtues needed in the anonymous settings of civil society or political participation, such as civility and public reasonableness.
It seems then that we cannot rely on the market, the family, or the associations of civil society to teach the full range of civic virtues. Each teaches us certain important virtues, but also certain dispositions which may be vices when exercised in the political domain. In any event, people are unlikely to learn the specifically political virtues of public reasonableness and scepticism of authority in any of these spheres, since these spheres are often held together by private discourse and respect for authority. Some publicly spirited parents or associations may deliberately take on the task of trying to promote these political virtues, but there is no guarantee they will do so, and it would clearly be inappropriate and impermissible for the government to intervene in families or churches to force them to do so.
Where then do we learn these virtues? The answer, according to many recent theorists, is the system of education. Schools must teach children how to engage in the kind of critical reasoning and moral perspective that defines public reasonableness. And indeed, promoting these sorts of virtues is one of the fundamental justifications for mandatory education. As Amy Gutmann puts it, children at school ‘must learn not just to behave in accordance with authority but to think critically about authority if they are to live up to the democratic ideal of sharing political sovereignty as citizens’. People who ‘are ruled only by habit and authority … are incapable of constituting a society of sovereign citizens’ (Gutmann 1987: 51).
Of course, there is nothing intrinsic to schooling that guarantees that it will do any better than families or churches in promoting political virtues. On the contrary, schools historically have often been used to promote deference, chauvinism, xenophobia, and other illiberal and undemocratic vices. But many scholars today believe that schools can be (re)organized to be effective seedbeds of civic virtues that may not be learned elsewhere. Moreover, of all the institutions which influence young people’s beliefs and dispositions—schools, media, families, churches—there are fewest objections to state regulation of schools (Weinstock 2001). Freedom of expression and the press limit state control over the media; freedom of conscience limits state control of churches, and privacy rights limit state regulation of the family. Hence there is an almost overwhelming tendency in modern liberal societies to look to the schools as the remedy for all of our behavioural social ills (e.g. teenage pregnancy; smoking; obesity; racism; and so on).
However, this idea that schools should teach children to be sceptical of political authority, and to distance themselves from their own cultural p. 308↵traditions when engaging in public discourse, is controversial. Traditionalists object to it on the grounds that it inevitably leads children to question tradition and parental or religious authority in private life. And that is surely correct. As Gutmann admits, education for democratic citizenship will inevitably involve ‘equipping children with the intellectual skills necessary to evaluate ways of life different from that of their parents’, because ‘many if not all of the capacities necessary for choice among good lives are also necessary for choice among good societies’ (Gutmann 1987: 30, 40).
Hence those cultural or religious groups which rely heavily for their survival on an uncritical acceptance of tradition and authority ‘are bound to be discouraged by the free, open, pluralistic, progressive’ attitudes which liberal education encourages (Macedo 1990: 53–4). This is why groups such as the Amish have sought to remove their children from the school system, either by seeking to establish separate religious schools or home schooling, or by seeking exemption from certain aspects of the curriculum where these liberal virtues are learned and practised (e.g. exemptions from sex education, or from integrated physical education classes).29
Some theorists worry that separate religious schools cannot provide an adequate education in either civility or public reasonableness, even if these virtues are included in the curriculum. For these virtues are not only, or even primarily, learned through the explicit curriculum, but rather through the ‘hidden curriculum’—i.e. the general environment and infrastructure of schools (Gutmann 1987: 53). For example, common schools teach civility not just by telling students the moral value of civility, but also by insisting that students sit beside students of different races and religions, and cooperate with them on school projects or sports teams. Similarly, common schools teach public reasonableness not only by telling students that there are a plurality of religious views in the world, and that reasonable people disagree on the merits of these views. They also create the social circumstances whereby students can see the reasonableness of these disagreements. It is not enough to simply tell students that the majority of the people in the world do not share their religion. So long as one is surrounded by people who share one’s faith, one may still succumb to the temptation to think that everyone who rejects one’s religion is somehow illogical or depraved. To learn public reasonableness, students must come to know and understand people who are reasonable and decent and humane, but who do not share their religion. Only in this way can students learn how personal faith differs from public reasonableness, and where to draw that line. This sort of learning requires the presence within a classroom of people with varying ethnocultural and religious backgrounds.
This suggests that the ideal of liberal education involves some degree of detachment from the student’s home community or culture, and interaction with people from other communities and cultures. Meira Levinson calls this p. 309↵the ideal of the ‘detached school’ (Levinson 1999). This need not involve a complete rejection of the idea of separate schooling or home schooling, but would require finding at least some room or stage in the education process for a more integrated school environment. It might involve separate schooling at an earlier age, for example, and then integrated education in secondary school. Or it might involve student or teacher exchange programmes. As Eamonn Callan puts it, ‘The essential demand is that schooling properly involves at some stage sympathetic and critical engagement with beliefs and ways of life at odds with the culture of the family or religious or ethnic group into which the child was born’ (Callan 1997: 133).30
Yet it is clear that many conservative religious groups will resist any such attempt to give their children a sympathetic engagement with other religions or lifestyles. Some groups like the Amish seek to avoid any contact with members of other faiths; other groups accept common schooling but oppose any attempt to include in the common curriculum discussion of lifestyles at odds with their own beliefs (e.g. homosexuality). This refusal to engage with other ways of life may jeopardize the development of certain civic virtues needed for the functioning of the modern state, but this argument is unlikely to persuade conservative religious groups, since many of them view the modern secular state as itself an instrument of wickedness in the world.
This creates a dilemma for liberals, many of whom wish to accommodate peaceful and law-abiding groups like the Amish. This is particularly true of the political liberals I discussed in the last chapter. To impose ‘our’ liberal values on groups which reject them is seen as ‘sectarian’ (see Ch. 6, s. 7). These political liberals will want to adjust citizenship education to minimize the impact on parental and religious authority. William Galston, for example, argues that the need to teach children how to engage in public discourse and to evaluate political leaders ‘does not warrant the conclusion that the state must (or may) structure public education to foster in children sceptical reflection on ways of life inherited from parents or local communities’ (Galston 1991: 253; cf. Rawls 1988: 267–8). However, he admits that it is not easy for schools to promote a child’s willingness to question political authority without undermining her ‘unswerving belief in the correctness’ of her parents’ way of life.
Should a liberal state require some degree of integrated schooling in the name of citizenship education? In answering this, it is worth distinguishing two kinds of religious groups that might seek exemption from common schooling. Some groups, like the Amish, voluntarily isolate themselves from the larger society, and avoid participating in either politics or the mainstream institutions of civil society. They do not vote, or hire employees, or attempt to influence public policy (except where a proposed policy would jeopardize their isolation), and seek only to be left alone. Since they do not participate p. 310↵in either politics or civil society, it is less urgent that they learn the virtues of civility and public reasonableness. Jeff Spinner calls the Amish ‘partial citizens’, and he argues that because they have relinquished the right to participate, they can also be absolved of the responsibilities which accompany that right, including the responsibility to learn and practise civility and public reasonableness (Spinner 1994: 98). Hence he supports their right to withdraw their children from school at the age of 14, before they would have to learn about the larger society, or interact with non-Amish children. Assuming that such groups are small, and sincerely committed to their self-imposed isolation, they pose no threat to the practice of liberal citizenship in society generally. Such groups should not be encouraged, since they accept no responsibility to work together with other citizens to solve the country’s injustices and problems. They are free-riders, in a sense, benefiting from a stable liberal order that they do nothing to help maintain.31 But a liberal state can afford a few such free-riders.32
By contrast, other religious groups seeking exemption from integrated schools are active participants in both civil society and politics, and seek to influence public policy generally. This would include fundamentalist Christians in the United States, or fundamentalist Muslims in Britain. In these cases, one could argue that, having chosen to exercise their rights as full citizens, they must accept the sort of education needed to promote responsible citizenship, including the obligation to engage sympathetically with other ways of life at some point in the educational process.
There are difficult practical as well as philosophical questions here about the role of schools in inculcating virtues. On the one hand, schools could fill an important gap by teaching certain political virtues that are not guaranteed to be learned in families or private associations. But schools are part of the larger society, and it would be a mistake to think that they can function well if their goals are not supported by other social institutions. If parents and churches come to think that the education offered in schools is fundamentally at odds with their beliefs, they will not support these schools, or their children’s educational achievements within them, and may seek to undercut the school’s messages. A truly ‘detached’ school, set over and against other social institutions, is unlikely to be effective.
In any event, it seems clear that no single institution can be relied upon as the exclusive ‘seedbed of civic virtue’, and that citizens learn an overlapping set of virtues from an overlapping set of institutions. The liberal hope is that this rather haphazard mélange of influences will generate the critical threshold of civic virtue.
But all of this discussion of where citizens learn virtues may seem beside the point. After all, the real question for any instrumental theory of virtue is why people would choose to exercise these virtues when they conflict with other p. 311↵preferences or goals. As I emphasized earlier, the liberal view does not assume that the exercise of these virtues is intrinsically rewarding, but may instead be seen as a sacrifice or burden. Why then would citizens choose to engage in public reason when they can get what they want in the political process through threats, bargaining, or sheer numbers? Why engage in civility when one benefits from the current patterns of discrimination and prejudice against minority groups?
Of course, if too many people abandon public reason and civility, the result may be to put the very legitimacy and stability of democratic institutions in question. In so far as we all have a self-interested reason to care about the stability of democratic institutions, we also have a self-interested reason to care about the overall level of virtue in society. But this is a rather remote and long-term interest, which does not fully explain why I should engage in any particular action of public reason or civility here and now. My individual action is unlikely to have any significant impact on the overall health of the democratic system. Why should I give priority to my long-term instrumental interest in promoting civic virtue over my short-term intrinsic interest in promoting my particular conception of the good, through threats or discrimination if need be?
This raises again the challenge Taylor posed to liberalism in the last chapter. Taylor argued that liberalism offered no plausible account of why citizens would continue to vote for redistributive welfare policies, and accept a legal obligation to make sacrifices for co-citizens, given that co-citizens no longer share a common conception of the good. Why make sacrifices for co-citizens whose way of life is not only different from mine, but perhaps even in conflict with it? The same question arises here, although in the context of individual behaviour rather than support for public policy. Why would citizens accept the burdens of public reason and civility in their personal conduct in order to accommodate co-citizens who have different, and perhaps even conflicting, conceptions of the good?
Not surprisingly, liberals offer the same two-level response here that they offered in the last chapter. At one level, liberals emphasize that citizens are assumed to have a sense of justice, and this shared commitment to principles of justice provides a sense of solidarity that unites people with different conceptions of the good. At another level, liberal nationalists argue that social unity based on principles of justice is too thin, and must be further stabilized and strengthened by the development of a shared sense of nationhood, based on a common language, history, and public institutions.
As I noted last chapter, many liberals are hesitant to adopt this second nation-building level, and prefer to rely solely on people’s sense of justice as a motive for accepting the demands of active and responsible citizenship. But in fact, the existence of this sort of nation-building is implicitly assumed by p. 312↵virtually all theorists of deliberative democracy and civic virtue. For example, most accounts of public reasonableness simply take for granted that citizens share a common language, and that democratic states form ‘a community of communication’.33 Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how deliberative democracy is possible without a shared language. But the diffusion of a shared language within each state is one of the main goals of nation-building, and in assuming the existence of such a common language, theorists are implicitly assuming the appropriateness of nation-building. Indeed, liberal nationalists argue that the shift from an aggregative to a deliberative model of democracy, and the recognition of the need for greater civic virtue, simply strengthens the argument for building a sense of common nationhood. As David Miller puts it, a common sense of national identity ‘is the precondition of achieving political aims such as social justice and deliberative democracy’ (Miller 1995: 162, 96; cf. Kymlicka 2001: ch. 10).
5. Cosmopolitan Citizenship
This attempt to link active citizenship and deliberative democracy with liberal nationalism is subject to the same objection as liberal nationalist accounts of distributive justice: namely that it ignores the need for a more ‘cosmopolitan’ or transnational conception of democracy. While liberal nation-building may have helped in the past to consolidate and promote democracy at a national level, what we need now is a more global conception of democratic citizenship, focused on supranational or international institutions, such as the European Union, the United Nations, or the World Bank.
One reason we may want to strengthen such international institutions is that we believe in a global conception of justice, and hence the need to transfer resources from the citizens of rich countries to the citizens of poor countries. That is, we may want cosmopolitan political institutions because we believe in a cosmopolitan conception of justice. But there are independent reasons for establishing international political institutions. It is increasingly recognized that we need such institutions to deal with issues of economic globalization, common environmental problems, and international security. As a result, we are witnessing a veritable explosion of such international organizations in the post-war period.
Yet these institutions do not fit well into existing nation-based theories of democracy. At present, these transnational organizations exhibit a major ‘democratic deficit’, and have little public legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. They are basically organized through intergovernmental relations, with little if any direct input from individual citizens. Moreover, these institutions have evolved in an ad hoc way, each in response to a particular need, without any p. 313↵underlying theory or model about the kinds of transnational institutions we want, or how they should be governed, or how they should relate to each other, or what sorts of principles should regulate their structures or actions.
In short, while we have an increasing number of transnational institutions, which exercise an increasing influence over our lives, we have no political theory of transnational institutions. We have well-developed theories about what sorts of principles of justice should be implemented by the institutions of the nation-state; well-developed theories about what sorts of political rights citizens should have vis-à-vis these national institutions; and well-developed theories about what sorts of virtues, loyalties, and commitments citizens should have to these institutions. By contrast, few people have any clear idea what principles of justice or standards of democratization or norms of virtue or loyalty should apply to transnational institutions.34
It is increasingly clear, therefore, that we can no longer take the nation-state as the sole or dominant context for political theory. We need a more cosmopolitan conception of democracy and governance that explicitly addresses these issues. One of the most common objections to liberal nationalism is not only that it ignores this need for a theory of transnational democracy, but also that its emphasis on common nationhood as the glue of a democracy makes it impossible to theorize democracy at a level which transcends national and linguistic boundaries (e.g. D. Held 1995; 1999; Young 2000b).
Yet many liberal nationalists agree that there is a need for transnational political institutions. The issue, as with liberal-nationalist accounts of justice, is whether we view the nation-state as a building block or an obstacle to a more cosmopolitan conception of democracy. Should we view cosmopolitan democracy as an alternative to outmoded models of nation-centred democracy, or as a supplement to, and dependent on, nation-centred democracy,
For example, consider one of the few serious attempts at developing a democratic transnational political institution: the European Union. The EU has two major centres of decision-making: the European Parliament, whose members are directly elected by citizens in Europe-wide elections; and the European Commission and Council of Ministers, whose members are appointed by national governments (which are themselves elected in country-specific national elections). Corresponding to these two centres of decision-making, there are two broad strategies for trying to remedy the EU’s democratic deficit. One is to increase the power of the (directly elected) European Parliament, at the expense of the (nationally nominated) Commission and Council of Ministers, and thereby increase the extent to which the EU is directly accountable to individual citizens in pan-European elections. The alternative is to leave most of the power in the hands of the Commission and Council of Ministers, but to increase the extent to which national p. 314↵governments are accountable in national elections for how their delegates act in the Commission/Council.
Many defenders of cosmopolitan citizenship endorse the first approach: they think it is essential to increase the extent to which international institutions are directly accountable to individual citizens. But it seems clear that most Europeans themselves prefer the second approach. There is very little grass-roots demand for a strengthened EU Parliament. On the contrary, most people, in virtually all European states, show little interest in the affairs of the European Parliament, and little enthusiasm for increasing its powers. What they want, instead, is to strengthen the accountability of their national governments for how these governments act at the intergovernmental Council of Ministers. That is, citizens in each country want to debate amongst themselves, in their vernacular, what the position of their government should be on EU issues. For example, Danes wish to debate, in Danish, what the Danish position should be vis-à-vis Europe. They show little interest in starting a European-wide debate (in English?) about what the EU should do. They are keenly interested in having a democratic debate about the EU, but the debate they wish to engage in is not a debate with other Europeans about ‘what should we Europeans do?’ Rather, they wish to debate with each other, in Danish, about what we Danes should do.
Moreover, attempts to create a genuinely democratic form of transnational citizenship could have negative consequences for democratic citizenship at the domestic level. For example, the inevitable result of giving more power to the elected European Parliament, on the grounds that it is more ‘democratic’, would be to take away the veto power which national governments now have over most EU decisions. Decisions made by the EU Parliament, unlike those made by the Council, are not subject to the national veto. This means that the EU would cease to be accountable to citizens through their national legislatures. At the moment, if a Danish citizen dislikes an EU decision, she can try to mobilize other Danes to change their government’s position on the issue. But if the EU is ‘democratized’—i.e. if the elected Parliament replaces the nominated Council as the major decision-making body—a Danish citizen would have to try to change the opinions of the citizens of every other European country (none of which speak her language). And, for obvious and understandable reasons, few Europeans seek this sort of ‘democratization’. For Danish citizens to engage in a debate with other Danes, in Danish, about the Danish position vis-à-vis the EU is a familiar and manageable task. But for Danish citizens to engage in a debate with Italians to try to develop a common European position is a daunting prospect. In what language would such a debate occur, and in what forums? Not only do they not speak the same language, or share the same territory, they also do not read the same newspapers, or watch the same television shows, or belong to the p. 315↵same political parties. So what would be the forum for such a trans-European debate?
Given these obstacles to a trans-European public debate, it is not surprising that neither the Danes nor the Italians have shown any enthusiasm for ‘democratizing’ the EU. They prefer exercising democratic accountability through their national legislatures. Paradoxically, then, the net result of increasing direct democratic accountability of the EU through the elected European Parliament might in fact be to undermine democratic citizenship. It would shift power away from the national level, where mass participation and vigorous democratic debate in a common language is possible, towards the transnational level, where democratic participation and deliberation is very difficult. As Dieter Grimm argues, given that there is no common European mass media at the moment, and given that the prospects for creating such a Europeanized media in the foreseeable future ‘are absolutely non-existent’, dramatically shifting power from the Council to the Parliament would ‘aggravate rather than solve the problem’ of the democratic deficit (Grimm 1995: 296).
This suggests that, for the foreseeable future at least, nation-states will remain the primary locus for the exercise of democratic citizenship. This is not to deny the importance, indeed necessity, of establishing international institutions whose decisions are subject to some form of democratic accountability. But given the difficulties of establishing meaningful forms of deliberative democracy and mass participation at the transnational level, we should perhaps try to develop cosmopolitan democracy by building on the achievements of the nation-state. In other words, the success of transnational democracy may be dependent on the ongoing health of national democracies: transnational political institutions will work best if their rules and decisions are debated and ratified within national democratic forums. If so, then focusing on the virtues, practices, and loyalties needed to sustain national democratic forums may not be as myopic as it first appeared (Thompson 1999).
6. The Politics of Civic Republicanism
In most post-war political theory, the fundamental normative concepts were democracy (for evaluating procedures) and justice (for evaluating outcomes). Citizenship, if it was discussed at all, was usually seen as derivative of democracy and justice—i.e. a citizen is someone who has democratic rights and claims of justice. There is increasing support, however, from all points of the political spectrum, for the view that citizenship must play an independent normative role in any plausible political theory, and that the promotion p. 316↵of responsible citizenship is an urgent aim of public policy. This concern with citizenship is found equally amongst liberals, radicals, libertarians, communitarians, and feminists.
And yet a striking feature of the current debate is the timidity with which authors apply their theories of citizenship to questions of public policy. The literature has not yielded many new proposals or recommendations on how to promote citizenship. If civic virtue is important, why not pass Good Samaritan laws, as many European countries have done? If political participation is important, why not require mandatory voting, as in Australia or Belgium? If public-spiritedness is important, why not require a period of mandatory national service, as in most European counties? If state schools help teach responsible citizenship, because they require children of different races and religions to sit together, and learn to respect each other, why not prohibit private schools?
These are the kinds of policies which are concerned specifically with promoting citizenship, rather than justice or democracy per se. Yet few authors even contemplate such proposals. Instead, most citizenship theorists either leave the question of how to promote citizenship unanswered (Glendon 1991: 138), or focus on ‘modest’ or ‘gentle and relatively unobtrusive ways’ to promote civic virtues (Macedo 1990: 234, 253).35 While citizenship theorists bemoan the excessive focus given to rights, they seem reluctant to propose any policies that could be seen as restricting those rights.
There may be good reasons for this timidity, but it sits uneasily with the claim that we face a crisis of citizenship, and that we urgently need a theory of citizenship. As a result, much recent work on citizenship virtues seems quite hollow. In the absence of some account of legitimate and illegitimate ways to promote or enforce good citizenship, many works on citizenship reduce to a platitude: namely, society would be better if the people in it were nicer and more thoughtful.36
Indeed, it is not clear how urgent the need to promote good citizenship is. The literature on citizenship is full of dire predictions about the decline of virtue, but, as Galston admits, ‘cultural pessimism is a pervasive theme of human history, and in nearly every generation’ (Galston 1991: 237). We can find similar worries about political apathy amongst political sociologists in the 1950s, and even in Tocqueville in the 1830s. If there are worrying signs, such as decreasing voting rates, there are also many positive trends. Citizens today are more tolerant, more respectful of others’ rights, and more committed to democracy and constitutionalism, than previous generations (Macedo 1990: 6–7). If there is a decline in citizen involvement in traditional party-based national politics, there has been a veritable explosion of various ‘counter-publics’—new forms of public involvement in which citizens energetically debate new ideas and alternatives (Fraser 1997; Phillips 2000: 291–2). p. 317↵So it remains unclear how serious the problem is, or how we should try to combat it.
This suggests that the current preoccupation with citizenship is perhaps not quite what it seems. The explicit goal is to develop a theory of citizenship that can supplement previous theories of just institutions. But in many cases, I believe, the new language of citizenship is simply being used (or misused) to camouflage older arguments about the justice of social institutions. By the end of the 1980s, we had reached a kind of impasse on theories of justice. Libertarians, liberal egalitarians, utilitarians, and communitarians disagreed about the appropriate principles of distributive justice and the appropriate scope of individual rights. They disagreed about the role of individual responsibility, choice, and community membership in determining our obligations of justice. There was no likely prospect of any one approach winning a decisive intellectual victory: it was clear that each tradition’s view of justice would continue to exert an influence on public debates and public opinion.
Under these conditions, it was no longer sufficient or effective to defend one’s preferred policies in terms of justice. Since our conceptions of justice are themselves controversial, arguing that a particular policy will promote liberal egalitarian justice, say, will only be persuasive to those who endorse that conception of justice. A more effective approach would be to defend policies in terms of ideals that cut across these different intellectual traditions, and that can appeal to people with different views of justice.
The ideal of democratic citizenship was the most obvious candidate to serve this function. The first to use this appeal to citizenship effectively, I think, was the New Right. When libertarians objected to the welfare state on grounds of justice—i.e. by insisting that taxation to help the needy is an unjust appropriation of people’s rightful entitlements—they had little success. The libertarian claim that the state has no right or responsibility to help the vulnerable is too stark a theory of justice for most citizens to swallow. But when the New Right started criticizing the welfare state on grounds of citizenship—i.e. by insisting that the welfare state bred dependency, passivity, and permanent marginalization—it was much more successful. No one, whatever their views of justice, could endorse public policies that undermined people’s potential for active and responsible citizenship.
Liberal egalitarians were in a similar position. When they objected to the growing inequality in market income on grounds of justice—i.e. by insisting that this inequality was typically the result of morally arbitrary differences in people’s circumstances—they had little success. The left-liberal claim that the state should seek to remedy all inequalities in circumstance is too demanding a conception of justice for many people. But when liberal egalitarians started criticizing inequality on the grounds that it impeded citizenship—i.e. by insisting that the rich could buy elections, and the poor were effectively p. 318↵disenfranchised—they were more successful. No one, whatever their conception of justice, can accept public policies which turn a democracy into a plutocracy. Moreover, this growing inequality was said to undermine the ‘ties that bind’ us together as a nation, and thereby erode the sense of solidarity. If we are to remain a strong and united nation, there must be some common public spaces where rich and poor can meet together to discuss matters of common concern as equals, and there must be equal access to education, the media, and so on. Programmes to combat poverty and marginalization that used to be defended in terms of equalizing life-chances are now defended in terms of promoting democratic citizenship.
Similarly, cultural conservatives used to oppose reforms such as women’s rights, gay rights, or multiculturalism on the grounds that they encouraged or tolerated ‘unnatural’ or ‘ungodly’ ways of life, or degrading or false conceptions of the good life. But this perfectionist argument for conservatism had little success, since it rests on a view of the good life which is controversial. We simply do not agree on what is ‘natural’ or ‘godly’. So conservatives have instead shifted to arguments about citizenship. The traditional family is defended now, not in terms of nature or religion, but as the ‘seedbed of virtue’.
In all of these cases, arguments about citizenship are, in effect, a kind of strategic retreat from earlier arguments about justice. What used to be rejected as intrinsically wrong (as unjust), is now said to be instrumentally wrong (as eroding the virtues needed to sustain a liberal-democratic order). This shift has been made in the hope that the instrumental arguments about virtue will have wider acceptance than appeals to controversial theories of justice.
Appeals to virtue are not only less controversial, but also appear more noble. For the left to defend policies on the grounds that they increase the spending power of the poor, so that they can enjoy greater equality of leisure or consumer goods, seems rather crass. It is much more inspiring if we say that these policies promote, not the private consumption of the poor, but rather their public liberty and their capacity to be active citizens. To be concerned about people’s capacity to engage in private consumption seems shallow and materialistic, whereas concern about people’s capacity for political participation seems noble.37 Hence both left and right have shifted from arguments about the fair distribution of private resources to arguments about the seedbeds of active citizenship.
That these citizenship arguments are invoked strategically does not mean, of course, that they are invalid. But it does suggest that these new theories of citizenship are hardly a disinterested search for the seedbeds of civic virtue. Those on the left look for ways in which economic inequality erodes active citizenship; those on the right look for ways in which welfare policies aimed p. 319↵at reducing economic inequality erode civic virtue. Feminists, gays, and multiculturalists look to find ways in which traditional status hierarchies of gender, sexuality, and race erode active citizenship; conservatives look to find ways in which state policies supporting women, gays, and minorities erode civic virtue.38 It is difficult to think of cases where people have defended policies on grounds of citizenship that they were not already committed to on grounds of justice. In this sense, it is not clear whether adopting the perspective of citizenship really leads to different policy conclusions from the more familiar perspectives of justice. It may instead be a matter of putting old wine into new bottles.
Guide to Further Reading
For general overviews of the recent ‘citizenship debates’, see Gershon Shafir (ed.), The Citizenship Debates: A Reader (University of Minnesota Press, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Ronald Beiner (ed.), Theorizing Citizenship (State University of New York Press, 1995)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Martin Bulmer and Anthony Rees (eds.), Citizenship Today: The Contemporary Relevance of T. H. Marshall (University College London Press, 1996)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Derek Heater, What is Citizenship (Blackwell, 2000)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Engin Isin and Patricia Wood, Citizenship and Identity (Sage, 1999)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Herman van Gunsteren, A Theory of Citizenship: Organizing Plurality in Contemporary Democracies (Westview Press, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat.
As we have seen in this chapter, the ‘citizenship debates’ are really several different debates, focusing on disparate issues about virtues, democratic legitimacy, citizenship education, and civic identities. For general theories of civic virtue, see Richard Dagger, Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship and Republican Liberalism (Oxford University Press, 1997)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Stephen Macedo, Liberal Virtues: Citizenship, Virtue and Community (Oxford University Press, 1990)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; William Galston, Liberal Purposes: Goods, Virtues, and Duties in the Liberal State (Cambridge University Press, 1991)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat. For collections on this topic, see David Batstone and Eduardo Mendieta (eds.), The Good Citizen (Routledge, 1999)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Robert Hefner (ed.), Democratic Civility: The History and Cross-cultural Possibility of a Modern Political Ideal (Transaction Publishers, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat.
The emphasis on civic virtue is tied to the shift towards a more ‘deliberative’ conception of democracy, which requires that citizens be able and willing to participate in an active and responsible way in political life. One influential statement of this new conception is Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement (Harvard University Press, 1996)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat. For commentaries on their theory, see Stephen Macedo (ed.), Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement (Oxford University Press, 1999)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat. Other important statements of deliberative democracy include Joshua Cohen, ‘Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy’, in R. Goodin and P. Pettit (eds.), Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Anthology (Blackwell, 1997)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Jürgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (MIT Press, 1996)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; and James Bohman, Public Deliberation: Pluralism, Complexity and Democracy (MIT Press, 1996)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat. Two important collections on this topic are James p. 320↵Bohman and William Rehg (eds.), Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics (MIT Press, 1997)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; and Jon Elster (ed.), Deliberative Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat.
Some theorists use slightly different terminology to express this new model. For example, Simone Chambers talks about ‘reasonable democracy’ (Reasonable Democracy: Jürgen Habermas and the Politics of Discourse, Cornell University Press, 1996)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Iris Marion Young talks about ‘communicative democracy’ (‘Justice and Communicative Democracy’, in Roger Gottlieb (ed.), Radical Philosophy: Tradition, Counter-Tradition, Politics, Temple University Press, 1993)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; John Dryzek talks about ‘discursive democracy’ (Discursive Democracy, Cambridge University Press, 1990)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; and Philip Pettit talks about ‘contestatory democracy’ (‘Democracy, Electoral and Contestatory’, in Ian Shapiro and Stephen Macedo (eds.), Designing Democratic Institutions: NOMOS 42, New York University Press, 2000)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat. All share the idea that our conception of democracy must become more ‘voice centred’ and less ‘vote centred’, although they disagree about how to enable and evaluate different forms of ‘voice’.
For useful surveys of the literature on deliberative democracy, see John Dryzek, Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics, Contestations (Oxford University Press, 2000)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; David Kahane, ‘Pluralism, Deliberation and Citizen Competence: Recent Developments in Democratic Theory’, Social Theory and Practice, 26/3 (2000): 509–35Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Ricardo Blaug, ‘New Theories of Discursive Democracy: A User’s Guide’, Philosophy and Social Criticism, 22/1 (1996): 49–80Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; James Bohman, ‘The Coming of Age of Deliberative Democracy’, Journal of Political Philosophy, 6/4 (1988): 399–423Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat.
Other important recent contributions to democratic theory include Ian Shapiro, Democratic Justice (Yale University Press, 1999)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat, and Jeremy Waldron, Law and Disagreement (Oxford University Press, 1999)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat.
Much of the literature on deliberative democracy may seem rather Utopian in its expectations about the sorts of deliberative capacities and dispositions citizens will have. But there have been some attempts to test the viability of this model. For experiments in how to improve the deliberative quality of democratic decision-making, see James Fishkin, The Voice of the People (Yale University Press, 1995)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat, or check out the website of Fishkin’s Center for Deliberative Polling (www.la.utexas.edu/research/delpol/index.html). For studies about whether citizens have the necessary ‘competences’, see Stephen Elkin and Karol Soltan (eds.), Citizen Competence and Democratic Institutions (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat.
Some theorists have supposed that the only or best way to sustain these new models of civic virtue and deliberative democracy is to return to some form of republicanism, which privileges political participation as the highest form of life. For examples of this republican revival, see Adrian Oldfield, Citizenship and Community: Civic Republicanism and the Modern World (Routledge, 1990)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; and Quentin Skinner, Liberty before Liberalism (Cambridge University Press, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat. A very different account of ‘republicanism’, which shares the liberal commitment to the centrality of civil liberties, is Philip Pettit, Republicanism (Oxford University Press, 1997)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat. For an overview and critique of the ‘republican revival’, see Bill Brugger, Republican Theory in Political Thought: Virtuous or Virtual? (St Martin’s Press, 1999)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Alan Patten, ‘The Republican Critique p. 321↵of Liberalism’, British Journal of Political Science 26 (1996): 25–44Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; and the symposium in Yale Law Review, 97 (1988)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat.
The need for civic virtues amongst citizens has raised the question of where citizens learn these virtues. There appear to be two broad answers. The first emphasizes the role of the organizations and institutions of civil society as the ‘seedbed of virtue’, where people learn ideas of self-discipline, cooperation, and duty. For discussions of this idea, see Thomas Janoski, Citizenship and Civil Society: Obligations in Liberal, Traditional and Social Democratic Regimes (Cambridge University Press, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Robert Fullinwider (ed.), Civil Society, Democracy and Civic Renewal (Rowman and Littlefield, 1999)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Nancy Rosenblum, Membership and Morals: The Personal Uses of Pluralism in America (Princeton University Press, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Mary-Ann Glendon and D. Blankenhorn (eds.), Seedbeds of Virtue: Sources of Competence, Character and Citizenship in American Society (Madison Books, 1995)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Michael Walzer (ed.), Toward a Global Civil Society (Berhahan Books, 1995)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat.
The other broad answer focuses on the need for some form of formal citizenship education, to supplement and sometimes correct the lessons we learn in civil society. For discussions of the importance of citizenship education for a liberal society, see Eamonn Callan, Creating Citizens: Political Education and Liberal Democracy (Oxford University Press, 1997)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Meira Levinson, The Demands of Liberal Education (Oxford University Press, 1999)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat, David Bridges (ed.), Education, Autonomy and Democratic Citizenship: Philosophy in a Changing World (Routledge, 1997)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Walter Feinberg, Common Schools/Uncommon Identities: National Unity and Cultural Difference (Yale University Press, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Stephen Macedo, Diversity and Distrust: Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2000)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Robert Fullinwider (ed.), Public Education in a Multicultural Society (Cambridge University Press, 1995)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Harry Brighouse, School Choice and Social Justice (Oxford University Press, 2000)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat, and two symposia, one on ‘Citizenship, Democracy and Education’, in Ethics, 105/3 (1995)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat, and one on ‘Democratic Education in a Multicultural State’ in Journal of Philosophy of Education, 29/2 (1995)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat. One of the most influential early discussions of this topic, Amy Gutmann’s Democratic Education, first published in 1987, has been reissued in a second edition (Princeton University Press, 1999).
For feminist views of the new citizenship literature, see Ruth Lister (ed.), Citizenship: Feminist Perspectives (New York University Press, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Maria Christine Bernadetta Voet and Rian Voet, Feminism and Citizenship (Sage, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat, Anne Phillips, ‘Feminism and Republicanism: Is This a Plausible Alliance?’, Journal of Political Philosophy, 8/2 (2000): 279–93Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat, and the symposia in Feminist Review, 57 (Autumn 1997)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat and Hypatia, 12/4 (1997)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat.
For defences of the need for transnational forms of democratic citizenship, see David Held, Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance (Polity Press, 1995)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Danielle Archibugi and David Held, Cosmopolitan Democracy: An Agenda for a New World Order (Polity Press, 1995)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Derek Heater, World Citizenship and Government: Cosmopolitan Ideas in the History of Western Political Thought (St Martin’s Press, 1996)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Bruce Robbins (ed.), Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation (University of Minnesota Press, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Kimberly Hutchings and Ronald Dannreuther (eds.), Cosmopolitan Citizenship (St Martin’s p. 322↵Press, 1999)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat, and the symposium on ‘Citizenship Denationalized’ in Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 7/2 (2000)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat. Much of the work on this topic of transnational democracy has been inspired by the development of the European Union, and attempts to remedy its ‘democratic deficit’: see Percy Lehning and Albert Weale (eds.), Citizenship, Democracy and Justice in the New Europe (Routledge, 1997)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Michael Nentwich and Albert Weale (eds.), Political Theory and the European Union: Legitimacy, Constitutional Choice and Citizenship (Routledge, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; Andrew Linklater, The Transformation of Political Community: Ethical Foundations of the Post-Westphalian Era (University of South Carolina Press, 1998)Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat.
There are many websites devoted to issues of citizenship promotion, citizenship education, and civic values. For some American examples, see the Center for Civic Education (www.civiced.org), focusing on democratic education; the Civic Practices Network (www.cpn.org), focusing on developing new approaches to enhance citizens’ roles in public problem-solving and responsible democratic deliberation; and the Institute for the Study of Civic Values (www.libertynet.org/~edcivic/iscvhome.html). The Boston Review website has an interesting ‘New Democracy Forum’, which focuses on how to promote deliberative democracy (www.bostonreview.mit.edu/ndf.html). More international websites include the European Citizenship Education Network (www.publiek-politiek.nl/english), and CIVITAS, an international NGO dedicated to promoting civic education and civil society around the world (www.civnet.org).
The new journal Citizenship Studies has quickly become a leading forum for issues of citizenship theory. Since civic republicanism can be seen in many ways as a natural evolution of communitarian concerns with social unity, it is not surprising that the communitarian journal Responsive Community, mentioned in Chapter 6, also contains many discussions of citizenship theory.
1. This may account for the recent interest in citizenship promotion amongst governments (e.g. Britain’s Commission on Citizenship, Encouraging Citizenship, 1990; Senate of Australia, Active Citizenship Revisited, 1991; Senate of Canada, Canadian Citizenship: Sharing the Responsibility, 1993).
3. For the pre-1994 literature, see the bibliography in Kymlicka and Norman 1994, and the collected essays in Beiner 1995. For more recent writings, see Janoski 1998; Dagger 1997; Callan 1997; van Gunsteren 1998; Shafir 1998; Hutchings and Dannreuther 1998; Lister 1998; and the bibliography in Kymlicka and Norman 2000.
5. It is often noted how idiosyncratically English this history is. In many European countries most of this progress occurred only in the last forty years, and often in reverse order. Even in England, the historical evidence supports an ‘ebb and flow model’ of citizenship rights, rather than a ‘unilinear’ model (Heater 1990: 271; Parry 1991: 167; Held 1989: 193).
6. Trop v. Dulles 356 US 86, 102 (1958). Recent studies suggest that this linking of citizenship p. 323with rights is true in both Britain and the United States, although the British tend to emphasize social rights (e.g. to public education and health care), whereas Americans usually mention civil rights (e.g. freedom of speech and religion) (King and Waldron 1988; Conover, Crewe, and Searing 1991: 804).
7. Many of the virtues on Galston’s list can be further subdivided into more specific sorts of dispositions and skills. For example, Barber suggests that the specifically political virtues can be subdivided into commonality, deliberation, inclusiveness, provisionality, listening, learning, lateral communication, imagination, and empowerment (Barber 1999: 42–5). There are now many such lists, which can be more or less refined.
8. James Bohman in particular has emphasized this idea of the importance of not just listening to others, but also of responding to them, so as to continue the conversation. He calls this the idea of ‘uptake’. See Bohman 1996: 58–9, 116–18; cf. Bickford 1996.
9. There is now a voluminous literature on public reasonableness. See for example, Gutmann and Thompson 1996; d’Agostino 1996; Rawls 1993a; J. Cohen 1996; Benhabib 1996; Macedo 1990; and the essays in Macedo 1999.
11. For discussions of this shift from an ‘aggregative’ to a ‘deliberative’ conception of democracy, see Young 2000a: ch. 1; Dryzek 1990: ch. 1; Christiano 1996: 133–50; J. Cohen 1997a: 143–55; Miller 2000: ch. 1; Phillips 2000. Not everyone uses the labels of ‘aggregative’ and ‘deliberative’ democracy to describe these two models. Dryzek and Young object to the term ‘deliberative’ democracy, since they think it suggests an overly rationalist picture of the nature of political communication. Dryzek prefers the term ‘discursive democracy’, and Young prefers the term ‘communicative democracy’. They are, however, equally committed to the ‘talkcentric’ conception of democracy. The older aggregative model is also sometimes known, particularly within American political science, as the ‘pluralist’ model—a term which dates back to the 1950s. This is potentially misleading today, since the sort of ‘pluralism’ it refers to concerns organized interest groups, not the sort of identity groups which underlie contemporary debates about ‘pluralism’. For different senses of pluralism, see Eisenberg 1995.
13. There is an analogy here to the problem discussed in the utilitarianism chapter about how to define utility or well-being (Ch. 2, s. 2). As we saw, utilitarians have recognized that it is necessary to define well-being not simply as the satisfaction of pre-existing preferences, whatever they are for, but rather as the satisfaction of informed preferences. The satisfaction of mistaken, adaptive, or uninformed preferences can in fact be harmful. This then raises the question of how to organize society to ensure that people can indeed develop informed preferences about the good life. The situation with theories of democracy is similar. The aggregative democracy model defines the desired outcome as a fair weighting or aggregating of individuals’ pre-existing preferences, whatever they are for. But a democratic decision will be more legitimate and more beneficial if people’s political claims and preferences are informed, and this in turn requires attention to the political preconditions which make it possible for people to form and revise their claims in an informed manner. This, in effect, is the goal of deliberative democracy.
14. There is a lively dispute about whether ‘consensus’ should indeed be the goal of deliberative democracy. Some theories of deliberative democracy have assumed that rational deliberation can and should lead to a convergence of views, as partial interests are reformulated into truly general interests, and as the best arguments win the day. This quest for consensus is often found in those theories of deliberative democracy influenced by Habermas (e.g. Benhabib 1992). Others have argued, more plausibly, that deliberation may sometimes p. 324actually reveal that we are further apart than we initially expected, and that our disagreements are even deeper, and less subject to easy resolution or empirical testing (Young 1996: 126; 2000a: 40–4; Frazer and Lacey 1993). Femia asserts that deliberative democrats are committed to the idea that deliberation should result in a ‘unified public will’, a commitment he views as naive (Femia 1996: 378–81; cf. Ferejohn 2000). But most deliberative democrats in fact share his scepticism about the likelihood of arriving at a consensus (Dryzek 2000: 72; Mouffe 2000: 98–102).
15. For liberals, see Rawls 1999a: 574; Dworkin 2000: 364–5; Gutmann and Thompson 1996; for communitarians, see Sandel 1996; for critical theorists, see Habermas 1996; Chambers 1996; for feminists, see Fraser 1992; Phillips 1995: 145–65; for multiculturalists, see M. Williams 1998; 2000; Young 2000a.
16. For proposals, experiments, and case-studies in deliberative democracy, see Fishkin 1991; 1995 (on deliberative polls); Elster 1998b (on constituent assemblies); Chambers 1998 (on constitutional conventions); Pettit 2000 (on ‘contestatory’ consultative mechanisms). For discussions of how to ensure fair group representation within these deliberative forums, see M. Williams 2000; De Greiff 2000.
17. This contrast between ‘communicative action’ aimed at mutual understanding and ‘strategic action’ aimed at instrumental success is most systematically developed by Habermas (Habermas 1979). (Habermas’s influence on theories of deliberative democracy is indeed one of the few areas where the continental tradition of political philosophy has strongly influenced Anglo-American theory.) The contrast between communicative action and strategic action is an important one, although not easy to apply. After all, people can engage in communicative actions for strategic reasons. Giving a principled reason for my self-interested claim may simply be a way of scaring off opposition, by implying that I will be unwilling to compromise on my ‘principle’ (see Elster 1995; Johnson 1998). One of the challenges for theorists of deliberative democracy is to consider not only how to promote communicative action, but how to reduce or filter out strategic communicative action. Elster argues, optimistically, that even if people originally enter into deliberation only for strategic reasons, they will eventually internalize the requirements of ‘reasonableness’ to which they formerly only paid lip-service. Elster calls this the ‘civilizing force of hypocrisy’ (Elster 1998a: 12; cf. Johnson 1998: 172).
21. Quentin Skinner offers an interesting variant on the Aristotelian republican argument. He seems to concede that political participation will not have intrinsic value for many people. However, he argues that we must get people to view political participation as if it has intrinsic value, or else they will not fulfil their duties to protect democracy from its various internal and external threats (Skinner 1992: 219–21). We must, in other words, deliberately inculcate a view of the good life we know to be false, in order to defend democratic institutions. This is akin to the idea of ‘Government House’ utilitarianism discussed in Chapter 2, although Skinner suggests that all citizens would come to believe this ‘noble lie’, whereas Government House utilitarians think that the elite should stay cognizant of the lie they inculcate amongst the masses.
22. Rawls 1988: 272–3. For other accounts of the relationship between republicanism and liberalism, see Dworkin 1989: 499–504; Taylor 1989a: 177–81; Hill 1993: 67–84; Sinopli 1992: 163–71; Patten 1996; Berkowitz 1999; Wallach 2000.
24. p. 325 My discussion here draws extensively on Jeff Spinner’s account of civility (1994: ch. 3). It also draws on Patricia White’s account of civility, or what she calls ‘decency’ (1992), although I disagree in part with her emphasis. She seems primarily concerned with improving the overall level of ‘decency’ in society, rather than with eliminating glaring instances of incivility aimed at identifiable groups. For example, she compares the smiling and cooperative waiters in a Canadian café with the surly and uncooperative waiters in a Polish café (1992: 208), and argues that we should educate children to be friendly with strangers rather than surly. While I agree that it is a good thing for people to display this sort of decency, and that a minimal level of it is a precondition of a functioning democracy, I do not think this is the fundamental problem for citizenship education. From my point of view, waiters who are only minimally cheerful to all their customers are morally preferable to waiters who are generally very cheerful but who are surly to black customers. The latter may display more decency overall, but their behaviour towards an identifiable group threatens the most basic norms of liberal citizenship. However, I agree with White that it is important to be sensitive to the cultural variations in norms of civility (White 1992: 215; cf. Young 1993). For a more critical discussion of civility, see Calhoun 2000.
25. For evidence that there is a set of social expectations that Americans have of each other, and of themselves, that must be fulfilled if people are to be perceived as full members of society, see Mead 1986: 243; Shklar 1991: 413; Moon 1988: 34–5; Dworkin 1992: 131.
26. For example, real-estate agents have an economic incentive to maintain segregated housing. In any event, New Right reforms arguably violated the requirements of liberal justice. According to critics cutting welfare benefits, far from getting the disadvantaged back on their feet, has expanded the underclass. Class inequalities have been exacerbated, and the working poor and unemployed have been effectively disenfranchised, unable to participate in the social and political life of the country (Fierlbeck 1991: 579). So even if the market taught civic virtue, laissez-faire capitalism violates the principle that all members of society have an equal opportunity to be active citizens.
27. There is nothing wrong with residents opposing something which they think is intrinsically wrong, no matter where it is located (e.g. people who oppose nuclear power plants). But there is a problem when neighbours organize to avoid doing their fair share regarding necessary public programmes and services, such as housing for the disabled or lower-income people.
28. For an excellent analysis of the complex role civic associations play in inculcating civic virtue, see Rosenblum 1998. She gives a powerful critique of what she calls the ‘transmission belt’ theory of civic associations, according to which each association should train citizens in the virtues they need for political life.
30. For the most forceful defence of this ideal of a ‘detached school’, see Levinson 1999. As she puts it, ‘It is difficult for children to achieve autonomy solely within the bounds of their families and home communities—or even within the bounds of schools whose norms are constituted by those from the child’s home community. If we take the requirements of autonomy seriously, we see the need for a place separate from the environment in which children are raised’ (Levinson 1999: 58).
31. This is a different line of argument from those who defend the exemption for the Amish by arguing that their separate schools provide adequate citizenship education. This was the view of the American Supreme Court, which said that the Amish education system prepared Amish children to be good citizens, since they became productive and peaceful members of the Amish community (Wisconsin v. Yoder 406 US 205 (1972)). However, as I noted earlier, p. 326liberal citizenship requires more than being law-abiding and economically self-sufficient. It requires also civility and public reasonableness. For a critique of Yoder’s account of civic responsibilities, see Arneson and Shapiro 1995.
32. As Spinner notes, there are unlikely to be many such groups, since the price of ‘partial citizenship’ is to cut oneself off from the opportunities and resources of the mainstream society (Spinner 1994: ch. 5). Of course, one could object to these exemptions for the Amish, not because they threaten liberal citizenship in general, but because they wrongly narrow the opportunities of their own children, including their opportunities for democratic citizenship (Gutmann 1980). Spinner argues that, even with the exemption from mandatory schooling, Amish children learn enough about the outside world for exit to be a meaningful option available to them.
34. For preliminary attempts to develop such a conception of cosmopolitan citizenship, see D. Held 1995; 1999; Archibugi and Held 1995; Heater 1996; Robbins 1998; Hutchings and Dannreuther 1999; Carter 2001.
36. For example, Mouffe criticizes liberalism for reducing citizenship ‘to a mere legal status, setting out the rights that the individual holds against the state’ (1992c: 227), and seeks to ‘reestablish the lost connection between ethics and politics’, by understanding citizenship as a form of ‘political identity that is created through the identification with the res publica’ (230). Yet she offers no suggestions about how to promote or compel this public-spirited participation, and insists (against civic republicans) that citizens must be free to choose not to give priority to their political activities. Her critique of liberalism, therefore, seems to reduce to the claim that the liberal conception of our citizenship rights does not tell us how a good citizen would choose to exercise her rights—a claim which liberals would readily accept. Many critiques of liberal citizenship amount to the same unenlightening claim.
37. There is obviously a deep tension in our culture on this question. On the one hand, as I noted earlier, most citizens endorse the view that we find our highest goods in the private spheres of family, work, and religion, rather than in political participation. Yet when it comes to issues about distribution, we talk as if it is unimportant how many resources people have in private life, and as if what really matters is the ability to participate politically.
38. For example, feminists argue that traditional forms of sexism undermine civility and public reasonableness; conservatives argue that the resulting forms of feminist ‘political correctness’ undermine civility and public reasonableness.