Politicizing the Demos

Michaele L. Ferguson

in Sharing Democracy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199921584
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980413 | DOI:
Politicizing the Demos

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This chapter critically examines the belief that commonality generates affective ties between citizens in democracy. That is, democratic theorists often argue that people care more for those who share some thing in common with them, and less for those who do not. Through a reading of Robert Putnam, this chapter reveals a tension that pervades thinking about diversity in democracy between this causal belief that commonality produces attachment, and the social constructionist faith that theorists can delineate new forms of commonality that could then produce the desired solidarity. Theorists are reluctant to fully embrace the constructionist view, however, because the causal logic of commonality offers a neat, conceptual solution to two vexing problems: the affective deficit of the modern state, and the challenge of predicting how plural subjects will behave in the future. Yet these are problems that cannot be resolved in a world characterized by plurality. So theorists should more fully embrace the idea that affect is the product of human world-building activity. Insofar as people generate solidarities, rather than are caused by the presence of commonality to feel attachment, solidarity is a matter for which humans can and should take political responsibility.

Keywords: affect; solidarity; Charles Taylor; Jürgen Habermas; David Miller; Robert Putnam; social capital; social construction; responsibility; commonality

Chapter.  12408 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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