The Allure of Commonality

Michaele L. Ferguson

in Sharing Democracy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199921584
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980413 | DOI:
The Allure of Commonality

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This chapter reveals and interrogates the dominant tendency in contemporary democratic theory to presume that some kind of commonality is required in democracy. This claim may at first seem counterintuitive: many theorists are quite critical of specific sources of commonality – such as ethnicity and culture. Yet, instead of rejecting commonality as such, they modify the kind of commonality that they believe is essential to democracy. What could explain the persistent allure of commonality to democratic theorists? The chapter argues that theorists continue to insist that democracies need commonality because they believe it is necessary in order to meet three democratic requirements: for a shared identity, affective ties between citizens, and collective agency. Commonality can only work to secure identity, affect, and agency if a number of other corollary assumptions hold true: assumptions about meaning, language, psychology, and politics. In order to shift away from commonality and towards political freedom, these corollaries must be critically examined as well.

Keywords: commonality; multiculturalism; politics of recognition; democracy; Charles Taylor; diversity

Chapter.  7789 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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