Thinking Inside the Box: The Ballot and the Politics of Liberal Citizenship

Elaine Hadley

in Living Liberalism

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780226311883
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226311906 | DOI:
Thinking Inside the Box: The Ballot and the Politics of Liberal Citizenship

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This chapter focuses on the ballot and the politics of liberal citizenship. It examines the parliamentary and periodical debates that characterized the last twenty years of British political history, and treated the ballot as an instructive instance of mid-century liberalism's legislative ambitions to populate the political domain with a liberalized citizenry, characterized by its capacity to think that abstractions were vital to liberal politics. Mid-century liberalism—as theory and envisioned practice—was deeply committed to effecting change, especially by changing people's minds. It formulated distinctive approaches to political participation, and the ballot was one of these distinctive approaches. As it took shape over the years of parliamentary debate, and as it distanced itself from earlier radical associations, the ballot as mechanism was not just imagined to be a guarantee of electoral purity but was increasingly expected to actualize—efficiently and in large numbers—the specifically liberal citizen.

Keywords: liberal citizenship; ballot; British political history; political participation; liberal politics; parliamentary debate; electoral purity

Chapter.  23530 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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