Liberal and Republican Conceptions of Citizenship
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter examines what it means to be a citizen within liberal and republican political theories - liberalism as the dominant political philosophy of our time, and republicanism as bringing to the fore a new focus on citizenship. Evolving in different historical contexts, liberalism and republicanism represent alternative perspectives on the problem of politics; they share the value of freedom, but interpret and prioritise it differently vis a vis other values. This entails differences in their conceptions of citizenship, and in their potential responses to contemporary challenges of diversity (of gender, culture and religion) and of transnational interdependence.
This chapter compares and contrasts two influential contemporary conceptions of citizenship, located in the liberal and republican traditions respectively. While liberalism is the dominant political philosophy of our time, republicanism has brought to the fore a new focus on citizenship.
As well as significant differences, the two theories have much in common. Furthermore, each of these traditions is composed of multiple strands, so that what constitutes the core of liberal or republican theory is internally contested. Rather than stipulating one of the rival accounts, I adopt a capacious interpretation in each (p. 84) case, noting certain characteristic concerns that distinguish them. As republicanism is likely to be less familiar, and is still in the course of articulation, it may need more detailed exposition here. I do not attempt to analyse fully the complex relationship between the two theories, but outline them insofar as this is relevant for comparing and contrasting their more sharply distinct conceptions of citizenship.
It is important to bear in mind that, in becoming the dominant political perspective, liberalism has been effective in absorbing elements of other traditions—including the historically earlier republicanism—and claiming them as its own. As Duncan Bell puts it, ‘Most inhabitants of the West are now conscripts of liberalism: the scope of the tradition has expanded to encompass the vast majority of political positions regarded as legitimate.’1 Thus contemporary republicans have had to establish that the perspective they represent is both distinctive and attractive.
Liberal and republican theories offer more or less systematic alternative accounts of the problem that politics addresses, the values that are significant, and the ways in which these can be realized. It is these theories that are examined here, rather than popular ideological or partisan uses of the terms ‘liberal’ or ‘republican’ that may share historical origins and elements with the theoretical expressions: these include for example, the position supporting government spending and redistributive taxation measures identified as liberal in the USA, the US Republican Party, the militant separatism of the Irish Republican Army, or the anti-monarchist movement in Australia.
In the specific context of citizenship, we should note also the significant distinction between political liberalism, which focuses on the freedom and equality of citizens, and economic liberalism, which focuses mainly on the independence of property and the market from government control, and is not centrally concerned with citizenship at all. Thus, although economic libertarian arguments may be part of the family of liberal theories, they do not feature prominently here.
Liberalism starts from the problem of potential conflict arising from individuals’ different interests and divergent moral perspectives; it addresses this through the creation of authoritative political institutions to maintain peace while treating all citizens fairly. Liberal political theory may be understood broadly as a commitment to freedom and equality, though in its neutralist versions this entails constraints on state promotion of any particular vision of the good life or set of comprehensive values. Indeed, while needed to moderate conflict, the state itself may present a threat of oppression. Thus liberalism has a particular focus on the relationship between the individual and the state, and what the state may or may not do. Liberal citizenship, then, is primarily a formal, and in principle universal, legal status protecting individuals.
(p. 85) Republicanism identifies the fundamental problem of politics differently in the fact of interdependence, and the resulting possibility both of domination—subjection to the arbitrary will of others—and of collective self-government, which realizes freedom and other common goods that individuals cannot achieve alone. While some republicans define freedom more in terms of the status of secure non-domination, and others as participation in decision-making, in each case freedom is related to self-government and concern for the common good. But this does not come naturally, and may be undermined by sectional interests. Citizenship is constituted as both a legal status and intersubjective recognition of equality, and entails the active commitment, or civic virtue, of citizens.
The primary focus of both liberal and republican theories of citizenship (and thus of this chapter) is on specifying its content, rather than providing criteria to establish its boundaries, although that content has potential implications for inclusion and exclusion.
From this brief initial characterization, it should already be evident that liberalism and republicanism are not so much diametrically opposed theories as alternative perspectives on the problem of politics, which share certain values, but interpret, organize, and prioritize them differently. It becomes easier to understand the common elements and continuing tensions between their contemporary expressions when we consider their historical evolution (the next section). The following section analyses the contrasting conceptions of citizenship. Subsequently, I outline the challenges for liberal and republican citizenship in the face of diversity and globalization. I conclude with some considerations on the future of liberal and republican citizenship.
The Historical Evolution of Liberal and Republican Political Theory
Liberalism and republicanism are not abstract, static positions, but evolving traditions that arose in different historical and political contexts of European history.
Emerging in the early modern period in Italian Renaissance city-states, and developing in seventeenth century England, the Dutch Republic, and eighteenth century Europe, republican theory was first articulated by political figures trying to defend self-governing citizen polities under pressure from princes and kings attempting to concentrate power in emerging European states. The most notable thinkers in this tradition include Niccolò Machiavelli, James Harrington, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, and James Madison. These thinkers looked back to ancient (p. 86) antecedents in Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic, where freedom was defined in contrast to slavery or subjection to a master (rather than as the absence of interference in individual choices), and was guaranteed in part by the legal status of citizen, the rule of law, mixed or balanced institutions. But it also required a citizenry who actively participated and displayed political and military virtue to preserve the fragile republic from internal corruption and external threats. In this respect it seemed suited to small states where it was possible to envisage active participation by a significant proportion of the population. In addition, to be a citizen it was required not to be dependent on others, so it required property, although excessive wealth was seen as undermining equality and commitment to the common good. It thus excluded women and those who were not property holders. With the increasing size of states and the growth of commerce in the eighteenth century, to some a civically virtuous and active citizenry came to seem variously impossible, unnecessary, or undesirable. In response, two distinct emphases emerged. One looked to the Roman model, seeing participation as an instrumental means to freedom; thus Madison reworked republicanism for a large modern state in America, arguing for institutional balance and representation (rather than direct participation). The other looked to the Athenian model, seeing participation as part of that freedom. Rousseau defended the ideal of a self-governing citizenry on a small scale. Although both the American and French revolutions invoked republican ideas, the first reframed republicanism in ways that dovetailed with the way in which liberalism would evolve, while the second led to a reaction against the violence and tyranny associated with the Jacobin invocation of citizen virtue and participation.
Thus, in the nineteenth century, republicanism went into decline, and liberalism superseded it, defending the freedom of individuals in relation to growing social and state power, and seeking their protection through individual rights and limits on government. It thus picked up a central thread from republicanism, and carried on some of the themes and institutional provisions introduced by republicans—for example, the rule of law and institutional balance. While arguments now associated with liberalism—natural rights, consent, and constitutionally limited government—can be traced back to the seventeenth century (in John Locke), it was really only in reaction to the collectivist implications of political and philosophical utilitarianism and nationalism that a second strand of liberalism focusing on individual freedom or autonomy was clearly developed, in the thought, for example, of Benjamin Constant, Alexis de Tocqueville, and John Stuart Mill.2
In the twentieth century liberalism was seen as the clear alternative to a variety of collectivist authoritarian positions, and especially to socialism. When socialism became discredited with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, liberalism appeared to emerge as the undisputed political perspective.
(p. 87) Contemporary liberalism, then, is arguably a defence of freedom, or, for neutralist liberals who rule out the state’s promoting any particular idea of the good life, an attempt to treat all persons with equal respect and concern.3 Liberalism addresses the potential conflict arising from individuals’ different interests and divergent moral perspectives by creating a political authority. Because government itself may become oppressive, it must be constrained. This spells out as requiring that citizens have an equal civil status, strong legal rights, including freedom of speech and conscience, and constitutional limitations on any form of government. While some interpret freedom negatively as non-interference, and others interpret it more positively as autonomy,4 liberals focus primarily on structures that protect individual rights, seen as pre-political, and tend to agree that, as far as the state is concerned, freedom represents more a constraint on government than a goal it should promote. Central to the liberal protection of freedom is the distinction between the public—what the state may control—and the private—what the state may not control. Citizenship is a universal, formal legal status, with certain rights and duties, which transcends the differences between individuals. While electoral representation is an important part of the institutional arrangements, active participation in self-government is not an essential part of citizenship.
While the liberal perspective is open to recognizing some common goods, this is mainly understood in terms of the aggregate of individual goods, or even as a basic precondition (as, for example, peace) for such goods. It does not prioritize shared goods or a broader common good among citizens. Nor does it emphasize the commitment or civic virtue of citizens.
But freedom is not the sole value of liberalism. The emphasis on equal freedom and respect for individual citizens has led to the development of a prominent egalitarian liberal strand for which this implies a degree of social and economic equality and accordingly of state-led redistribution. This found its canonical expression in the political theory of John Rawls, in which two basic principles were central—equal freedom and the limiting of inequalities to those which may benefit the least well-off.5 Much liberal theory since then has been concerned with responding to, or working out, the implications of this influential position, especially with respect to the distribution of social and economic opportunities.
Despite the apparent triumph of liberal ideas, criticism of their limits, both conceptual and practical, soon emerged. Indeed the revival of republicanism from the 1990s may be seen as arising from concerns (initially communitarian (p. 88) in focus) about such limits, ranging from liberalism’s individualist assumptions, and failure to focus on shared goods, to its limited capacity to identify certain kinds of oppression, or to motivate citizens to act in ways that would sustain liberal institutions. The more politically focused republican revival took the form first of rediscovering republicanism as an historical tradition (in the work of J. G. A. Pocock and Quentin Skinner),6 and then of rearticulating it in a variety of expressions, for each of which freedom is realized through membership of a self-governing political community. These include a more participatory strand—from Hannah Arendt to Michael Sandel—and a more protective strand elaborated by Skinner and Philip Pettit, the leading exponent of what has come to be called ‘neo-republicanism’.7
For contemporary neo-republicans, the starting point is the fact of interdependence that makes people vulnerable to domination. Unfreedom is identified in terms of domination: more than interference, this is systematic vulnerability to the threat of interference, or subjection to the exercise of arbitrary, or unchecked power.8 This may loom over people even when they are not actually being interfered with, and undermines their ability to live free lives. The status of a slave, or a wife in a Victorian marriage makes them vulnerable to the exercise of arbitrary power even if, at any point in time, a kind or absent master or husband is not inclined to interfere with them; but they still need to take account of the possibility of a change of temper or conditions. They depend on the good will of the master or husband.9
But interdependence also offers the possibility of collective self-government, through which citizens can enjoy common goods that individuals cannot achieve alone. Freedom itself is such a good: it is not a natural property, but is realized first through legal and political institutions that establish a secure public status of legal and political equality. This protects citizens from arbitrary exercises of power, and allows them ‘to look the other in the eye’,10 rather than accommodating themselves to domination; it requires that this knowledge of equal status is mutual and internalised by citizens. This constitutes freedom as non-mastery (rather than as (p. 89) self-mastery, which Isaiah Berlin identified as positive freedom and contrasted to negative freedom or non-interference).11
Pettit distinguishes freedom as non-domination from both non-interference and more positive notions of freedom as autonomy, and sees this as what distinguishes republicanism from liberalism. It has been argued, however, that non-domination remains a negative conception of freedom, albeit more securely established. If so, neo-republicanism may seem not to differ that much from liberalism (as Rawls agreed).12 Furthermore, both outline similar institutional protections and see citizenship (initially at least) as a legal status; and, although neo-republicanism emphasizes the intersubjective dimension of non-domination, it can be seen as relying on something very like the liberal notion of respect.13 While some have aimed to reconcile the insights of both traditions in a civic liberalism or a liberal republicanism, others have argued that to the extent that republicanism is similar to liberalism it is redundant, and to the extent that it is different, it is anachronistic, populist, oppressive, or impractical.14
Even if non-domination remains a negative conception and neo-republicanism and liberalism share certain commonalities, the assumptions underpinning their institutional provisions, however, are different. Liberals think of individuals as inherently independent and of freedom in pre-political terms, protected by laws that constrain the exercise of power of others and the state. Furthermore, government power and law, although necessary, are constraints on freedom. For republicans, freedom is politically realized, and rights are politically constituted.15 Laws establishing equal status constitute part of freedom, rather than a necessary infringement on it—freedom ‘by the law’, rather than from the law.16 In addition, because only arbitrary exercises of power dominate, republicans are less inherently reluctant to envisage state intervention as long as this is subject to accountability procedures. The institutional requirements of non-domination are the rule of law (p. 90) and the accountability of political institutions to citizens by giving them a voice to contest political decisions.
Moreover, even neo-republicanism is more demanding in what equal status requires; this depends not on law alone, but on social recognition. For all republicans, the realization of freedom depends on the commitment of citizens internalizing the values of the republic, being disposed to treat others as equals rather than seeking to dominate them, and recognizing the common goods that they share as citizens. This makes central a stronger notion of the common good as collectively realized and enjoyed. Here public and private are contrasted primarily in terms of interest rather than control—what is public is in the common interest, what is private is in the individual or sectional interest. This emphasis on the character of citizens and the shared common good highlights the way in which the republican perspective entails more substantial relationships and commitments among citizens than liberals focusing on institutions generally recognize.
In addition, republicanism makes more central some kind of political activity, whether this be the opportunity for contestation for Pettit, or more substantial participation in decision-making. Indeed it has been argued that non-domination itself requires both more civic virtue and more provision for political determination relative to institutional balance than Pettit recognizes.17
It may further be argued that non-domination is more closely connected to autonomy than Pettit or other neo-republicans suggest. The value of non-domination lies partly in its being a precondition for the exercise of autonomy, both personal and political. If freedom is understood as an ideal to be promoted, rather than a constraint to be observed, non-domination appears to point beyond itself, if not to full mastery, towards the possibility of those who are mutually vulnerable and subject to a common authority jointly exercising some collective direction over their lives. Thus, for some republicans, as we shall see when we consider the role of political participation in citizenship in the next section, a still more participatory account may be seen as more consistent with the commitments of republicanism.
We may conclude that republicanism is not opposed to liberalism’s central value of freedom, but interprets it differently, and has a different centre of gravity, in which freedom is part of a cluster of related values including civic commitment and participation in self-government. It is the conjunction of these other concerns of civic engagement with freedom that defines the distinctive character of republicanism and the continuity among its various strands. Neo-republicanism has excavated the essential underpinning of freedom as non-domination for self-government, (p. 91) but does not supersede the focus on the common good or participation in self government.18
Contrasting Conceptions of Citizenship
Despite the complexities of characterizing and distinguishing liberal and republican political theories, when we compare their accounts of citizenship more specifically these differences appear in sharper perspective.
Citizenship has three distinct dimensions: legal status and rights, activity, and membership. Different conceptions of citizenship interpret, connect, and prioritize these differently. Risking oversimplifying, we may say that the liberal conception focuses more on legal status and rights, and the republican conception relatively more on activity.
For liberals, citizenship is a relatively formal legal status that establishes a significant range of rights against the state and others; the obligations of citizenship have traditionally been seen as fairly thin, amounting to obeying the laws, paying taxes, serving on juries, and other quite determinate duties that do not affect the character or identity of the individual. Some might see voting or participation as a moral, but not generally as a legal obligation. Liberalism relies heavily on institutions and laws to achieve a liberal society; although some have drawn attention to the need for certain liberal virtues or dispositions (such as tolerance and reasonableness) among citizens if liberalism is to flourish, activity over and above status, whether in terms of civic virtue or political participation, is not central.
Citizenship itself (as distinct from individual rights and constitutional limits) was not always given a central position in liberal political theory. What is often cited as the classic statement of liberal citizenship was articulated by the sociologist, T. H. Marshall, identifying its expansion from civil (from the seventeenth century) to include political (in the nineteenth century) and finally social and economic status (in the twentieth century).19
Subsequently, in the work of John Rawls, the idea of the free and equal citizen does play a more central role. Thus Rawls describes ‘a free and equal citizen, the (p. 92) political person of a modern democracy, with the political rights and duties of citizenship, and standing in a political relation with other citizens’, noting that these rights and duties are distinct from and more limited than the more comprehensive moral rights and duties of the moral person.20
For both liberals and republicans the citizen is defined in contrast to the ‘subject’—a person under the command of a ruler. While also starting from legal status and structures needed to secure it, republicans place more emphasis than liberalism on the second dimension of citizenship—activity. Thus the republican citizen is defined also in contrast to the consumer, client, or free rider, or those who are indifferent to or inactive in the political community. But this status/activity account differs from ‘thicker’ membership accounts (where citizens—contrasted to non-members—share deep commonalities). On the republican account, as Arendt put it, citizens are ‘with’ others rather than being either for or against them.21
In the public mind, political participation may be the activity most widely associated with citizenship, distinguishing citizens from subjects. For liberals, as we have seen, participation is optional and protection may be achieved through representation. More important may be consent and constitutional protections restricting the scope of political power and even of public argument. Liberalism institutionalizes democracy through representation of diverse interests. Furthermore it may conceive of democratic decision-making as a matter of necessary compromise among interests. Although there are many variants of liberalism, it may be argued that in general it more easily accommodates a ‘market’ model of democracy, in which fixed individual preferences are aggregated, than a ‘forum’ model, in which views are articulated and developed in public.22
If there are political virtues in participation that citizens need to develop and practice, they are matters of rationality and impartiality rather than connection: for Rawls,
the virtues of reasonableness and fair-mindedness as shown in the adherence to the criteria and procedures of commonsense knowledge and to the methods and conclusions of science when not controversial. These values reflect an ideal of citizenship: our willingness to settle the fundamental political matters in ways that others as free and equal can acknowledge are reasonable and rational.23
Thus, when liberals have become engaged in the modern turn to deliberative democracy, in which deliberation between alternative viewpoints in a public space becomes more central, their accounts tend to be rational and legal or constitutionalist in their focus, or to limit both the kinds of contribution that can be made in public debate and the scope of that deliberation.
(p. 93) Contemporary republicans call for a more active citizenry and more extensive popular involvement in political activity than the liberal consensus on limited government, electoral representation of interests, and consent of the governed. Rather than either a politics of bargaining among interests or the expression of a collective will, they emphasize the deliberative interpretation of the common good.
Some republican views construe deliberative input more in terms of the ability to contest decisions and others more in terms of determining or contributing to decisions. Again, any sharp distinction between the neo-republican instrumental approach to participation and a more participatory republicanism conceals significant continuities. Both fit better with a view of democracy as a forum or public sphere in which alternative views are expressed and given consideration among diverse people. For those emphasizing more active participation in decision-making than the neo-republican strand, participation can be seen as having intrinsic as well as instrumental value, whether as a form of self-expression or participation in collective self-government,24 rather than as part of a political nature, attributing to it ultimate value, or thinking that extensive participation, or even voting, should be compulsory.25
Democratic republicanism can envisage the role of active citizens as deliberating on the common good rather than imposing a collective will or realizing collective self-mastery. The republican goal of determining the common good and encouraging civic commitment gives deliberation a particular focus and importance distinct from, for example, its possible role in giving individual interests a better hearing.
Republicans and liberals differ also on the question of civic education. The largely formal liberal account, and its focus on institutions limiting state power have led liberals to place little emphasis on civic virtue or education for citizenship. Even where liberals identify need for civic virtues, whether and how they can be promoted, and whether education promoting them is legitimate, is much disputed. For some, education is hard to reconcile with autonomy; indeed, since Mill, many liberals argue that education should not be within the purview of the state, or that state education should not promote particular values. Those who think that liberal citizens need a more specific attachment to their country, however, see this as requiring education in history, common culture, or liberal democratic values.26
In contrast, for republicans, education is central to citizenship. Because people experience a natural tension between particular and common interests, (p. 94) commitment to the common good is not guaranteed, but is a disposition that may be developed—in part at least through education. This applies to all varieties of republicanism, whether the ideal is framed in terms of a culture of non-domination or a more substantial political autonomy.27 But this may be not so much a matter of instilling a particular doctrine, values, or identity as an awareness of interdependence, self restraint, and a capacity for deliberation.28
Current Challenges: Including Diversity and Extending Beyond the Nation-State
Leaving aside radical challenges to the very concept of citizenship, it is indisputable that the frame of reference for freedom and equality, non-domination, and self-government needs to change in response to greater diversity within states, and to increasing global interdependence.
Here I consider two kinds of challenge faced specifically by liberal and republican conceptions of citizenship. How potentially inclusive of diversity are they? How extensible beyond the nation-state is their concern with freedom and equality?
While liberal and republican citizenship are framed in terms of values that appear to be inclusive, the extent to which they can accommodate diverse citizens as equals has been significantly questioned in at least three important areas: gender, culture, and religion. In brief: while not focusing primarily on drawing boundaries, liberals and republicans have been seen as enforcing boundaries, explicitly and implicitly, through the very content they attribute to citizenship.
In principle liberal citizenship, as only a ‘thin’ formal legal status, can potentially accommodate all: what differentiates citizens can be expressed in private, and the state does not promote any particular values or visions of the good life over others. Feminists were early critics of the liberal privatization strategy, drawing attention to the difficulty of separating public and private, that this can obscure and depoliticise certain kinds of unfreedom and inequality, and that an ideal of citizenship modelled on a rationalist, independent individual has either excluded or imposed high costs of inclusion on women and other minorities.29 Indeed in a broad criticism encompassing both liberal and republican models of citizenship, Young maintains:
The ideal of the public realm of citizenship as expressing a general will, a point of view and an interest that citizens have in common that transcends their differences, has operated in fact as a demand for homogeneity among citizens.30
Liberal responses have included reforming the ideal of citizenship to fulfil its promise of universality, redrawing the boundary of the private around the individual rather than the domestic sphere, loosening the private-public distinction, and acknowledging the role of emotions in the liberal individual.31
The republican public-private distinction, never as sharp as in liberalism, maps primarily on to common and particular interests, even if these were in practice often elided with the public and domestic spheres. So it does not have the same intrinsic liability to overlook oppression, and indeed neo-republicanism has highlighted as exemplary the domination of women within marriage that liberalism found hard to problematize.
Nonetheless, republicanism has tended to see citizenship as incompatible with dependence (and historically excluded women and others on this account).32 It could be argued that the republican requirement for capacities and dispositions for commitment and participation suggest grounds for excluding those who are inevitably dependent.33 Yet it may be more consistent with its concern for freedom in interdependence to acknowledge necessary dependence and the importance of securing non-domination and participation in self-government in that context. Thus non-domination has the potential to highlight unfreedom in further cases of dependence, including children and those with disabilities and mental health diagnoses, who are vulnerable to exercises of arbitrary power. Indeed, this requires understanding civic virtue and participation in less heroic or masculinist terms than in historical republicanism. Acknowledging necessary dependence entails, for example, not only counting practices of care as active citizenship, but also accepting a wide range of levels and modes of participation by those hitherto deemed incapable of inclusion.34
Still, feminists have been suspicious of the very idea of the common good as masking the imposition of particular dominant interests.35 But while it has often (p. 96) been used hypocritically, it is not clear this is a reason for abandoning the idea altogether. Freedom itself depends on an orientation towards the possibility of common goods realized in conjunction with others.36 That citizens should be prepared to transcend their narrow interests is not oppressive, unless they are forced to conform to a predetermined end.
In the late twentieth century the increasing emphasis on cultural identity expanded the scope of the critique of liberal privatization; in practice this strategy meant that citizenship was marked by the dominant culture, so that members of national or immigrant minority cultures, even if in principle equal citizens, encountered obstacles to participation in social and public life.37
To treat members of cultural minorities equally, a more inclusive conception of multicultural liberal citizenship has been proposed by, for example, Will Kymlicka, accommodating cultural minorities through exemptions, special representation, and resources, without infringing on liberal principles of individual freedom or equality.38 This departure from formal universal citizenship was resisted by some liberals who identified dangers to equality (between and within groups) of special treatment for groups, and argued instead for genuinely equal treatment—for example, changing the rules for all if this was warranted, rather than having rules with exemptions for minorities.39
On the other hand, with the increased salience of culture, others suggested that cultural diversity poses a threat to solidarity among citizens.40 If liberal citizenship is thin—does not engage the identity or character of citizens—it overlooks the solidarity needed for support of liberal institutions, especially the redistribution associated with the welfare state. Thus some suggest that liberal citizenship should include commitment to a common public culture of liberal nationality, entailing education in that common culture, while also allowing that it may be reshaped over time.41 This supports some thickening of the basis of liberal citizenship. But attempting to fill out formal citizenship with (even limited, public) cultural content, makes it intrinsically more difficult to integrate others. Moreover, while a shared culture may give a sense of membership of the imagined community, whether it is necessary or sufficient to motivate solidarity is contested.42
Republicanism, since it involves more specific commitment and activity, could initially be seen as less accommodating of cultural diversity. But unlike thicker communitarian citizenship, republican concern for the common good requires (p. 97) citizens to transcend not cultural or moral difference per se, but purely particular preferences that do not take account of interdependence. This suggests that it does not in principle exclude, and can more easily accommodate, citizens in their cultural diversity. It identifies ways in which cultural differences may entail specific needs and vulnerabilities to domination, and authorizes their voices in the political process.43 From this perspective equality of diverse citizens may be realized by promoting broad-ranging public deliberation. The ideal here is that solidarity may be realized less through cultural commonality than intersubjective recognition and interaction; as Benhabib puts it, ‘feelings of friendship and solidarity result … from … the actual confrontation in public life with those who would otherwise be strangers to us.’44 Here too, whether and to what extent this can be borne out in practice is a matter of dispute.
Religion and its accommodation has more recently come to be the most critical issue of diversity in contemporary debates. As epitomizing comprehensive views for which compromise is problematic, religion, in the liberal view, should be tolerated in private, but excluded from public life. Even those liberals willing to accommodate cultural diversity are less willing to extend this to religion—not only ruling out any religious establishment and any state promotion of religious doctrine, but constraining citizens’ political expression of religiously justified beliefs. Rawls particularly identifies as a duty of ‘public civility’ that citizens should not advance arguments based on religious comprehensive doctrines in discussions on constitutional essentials and questions of basic justice, or do so only if in due course they provide ‘properly public reasons’.45 With the increasing salience of new kinds of religious diversity, this approach, and whether it applies to the purely political or to all public expressions of religion, has become the focus of intense discussion.46
A similar approach is advanced in the strict secularism (laïcité) of official French republicanism, itself a distinctive hybrid of republican and liberal concerns, which Cécile Laborde has termed ‘a tough-minded version of egalitarian, difference-blind liberalism’.47 In the interests of freedom, equality, and fraternity, laïcité has (p. 98) been interpreted as requiring a rigid neutrality, excluding all religious expressions from the public sphere, including wearing Muslim headscarves or Sikh turbans in school.48
The privatizing strategy can be seen as imposing differential costs on members of different religions, affecting less those that focus on belief and conscience rather than ritual and practice, or whose practices fit more easily into the distinction between public and private. Members of religious minorities who have to choose between following religious practices or participating in education may be seen as dominated by the state that imposes this conditionality. It may also be argued that if expressions of citizens’ deepest convictions are restricted to the private realm, this downgrades their significance, and fails to treat them as equal citizens. If, further, political arguments based on religious reasoning are disallowed in the political realm, this reinforces any majority bias in the status quo, and remains an exercise of power in which (especially minority) religious citizens are at a disadvantage.49
If, in contrast to this approach, we see as the key principle of the republican approach not public neutrality, but non-domination and participation in self-government, rather than excluding religion from the public realm, this allows religious practices in public and authorizes members of religious minorities to express views based on religious perspectives in politics.50 It also requires government to be continually open to consider and change any existing state arrangements that dominate citizens of diverse beliefs. It thus allows for even-handed accommodation of religious practices.51 To the objection that this facilitates oppression within religious groups, it can be replied that a concern with non-domination should make the state more rather than less alert to the threat of oppression, and allows it to intervene in, and constrain, dominating practices. As John Maynor puts it: ‘Individuals and groups within a republican state [committed to non-domination] can be non-liberals, but they cannot be dominators.’52
In this vein, Cécile Laborde’s alternative ‘critical republicanism’ aims to formulate a theory of secularism that, like egalitarian liberalism, prioritizes egalitarian justice and solidarity over identity-based claims, and, like republicanism, recognizes the importance of civic attitudes and robust public interaction. This entails greater neutrality of political institutions than at present, but fewer constraints on the expression of religious minorities.53
(p. 99) More than ever before, issues concerning freedom and equality spill over the bounds of the nation-state. Globalization has undermined the capacity of political communities to protect or realize freedom. Exercises of power over individuals and less powerful states by international economic actors and more powerful states make more significant differences in security of non-domination and self-government. Can liberal and republican citizenship be extended beyond the nation-state? Furthermore, does their concern for the freedom and equality of citizens justify or proscribe limiting others’ freedom to migrate or to become members?54
Neither theory focuses primarily on the dimension of membership, or offering criteria for its allocation. Neither is intrinsically wedded to the nation as the foundation of the state, and there are resources within both that suggest their potential extensibility. Yet both have long operated under the assumption of a bounded polity, and have only relatively recently begun to address whether and how their principles and concerns might extend beyond the nation-state.55
On the one hand, liberal freedom and equality applies to individuals rather than to members of a specific polity. The (in principle) universality of liberal citizenship might be thought to lend itself to cosmopolitan scope to the extent that transnational institutions of liberalism can emerge.56 But the absence of such authoritative institutions and the reluctance of liberals to entrust power on a larger—let alone on a global—scale undermines the potential for liberal citizenship beyond the nation-state. In addition, if liberalism is seen as too thin to motivate at the national level, this problem is surely multiplied at higher levels. Egalitarian liberals focusing on distributive justice have been divided on the scope of that justice. For an increasing number of liberals, the scope of justice must be global. For others, it can apply only within a bounded society; in the context of a world of states, something like the principle of non-interference was proposed by Rawls as the appropriate relationship of liberal states with other peoples.57
Republicanism might be thought of initially as more firmly bounded since it relies not only on institutions, but also on commitment and the opportunity for participation among citizens. If commitment to a shared common good is thought already too demanding at national level, it may be hard to see how it could be more widely (p. 100) extensible. But while neo-republicanism has been developed initially in terms of securing non-domination for citizens within a state, domination extending across borders must surely be seen as problematic. Thus the need for structures realizing non-domination and self-government might be seen as extending the potential scope of citizenship.
It can be argued that globalization has involved an increase in the potential for domination, with increasing connectedness, asymmetry of power, and dependence across borders, affecting individuals both directly and indirectly (by making their states incapable of fulfilling their protective role).58 If freedom requires not just non-interference, but reducing domination and a share in self-government, it may be precisely this increased potential for domination that makes a republican approach relevant. It is less clear whether this means that we should aim to secure weaker states better from domination, to create a global republic, or, as James Bohman argues, to build on the incipient world political community and multi-level democracy that existing international institutions, although partial, have created.59
The second global challenge is whether liberal and republican citizenship can address the issue of movement between states. Since neither liberal nor republic conceptions of citizenship are defined essentially in terms of specific membership, they do not immediately entail a communitarian right of political communities to exclude non-citizens.60 Thus it has been argued variously that the logical conclusion of the liberal principles of freedom and equality is opening borders so that people are free to migrate wherever they wish, or giving outsiders a say in the determination of border controls.61 With respect to migrants already admitted, liberal principles suggest a broad range of rights applying to all, and relatively easy access to full citizenship through naturalization. Against this, however, other liberals have denied that borders infringe on the freedom of outsiders, invoking the principle of free association or the need for commonality among citizens to support state powers to exclude migrants and to make citizenship for residents conditional.62
The focus of republicanism on a political community may seem potentially more exclusive. But a state that dominates non-citizens (within or outside the state) has (p. 101) to be seen as invidious. Within a state, if non-citizen residents constitute a class vulnerable to domination, this clearly gives rise to a problem that republican theory needs to address.63 Whether or not those outside borders are inherently dominated is a matter of more debate. Philip Pettit sees bounded states as essential to the project of minimizing domination, and argues that, as a state cannot guarantee membership of a non-dominating polity to all, border controls per se may be seen less as an exercise of arbitrary power, and more as external factors conditioning the freedom of outsiders.64 But others argue that border controls do represent an exercise of agency, and thus constitute domination of those whose freedom of choice to move for significant reasons they reduce. Thus the logic of republican citizenship requires, if not immediate access to the benefits of citizenship, at least limits on discretionary exclusion and the possibility of contesting those controls.65
These are actively debated issues on which considerable disagreement within both traditions continues.
Conclusion: The Future of Liberal and Republican Citizenship
While the central insights of liberalism stress the importance of respecting individuals as distinct, republicanism emphasizes the relatedness of individuals and the possibilities and problems to which that gives rise. While contemporary republicanism displays a variety and complexity of arguments and perspectives comparable to liberalism, it distinctively combines concerns for liberty and civic engagement in a self-governing political community. Less diametrically opposed to liberalism than a corrective to it, it approaches politics with a different angle of vision. Its perspective on liberty and the participation and solidarity that it entails bring into relief features that contemporary liberals have tended to overlook, or at least to prioritize differently.
Liberal and republican citizenship advance alternative perspectives on the ideals and the possibilities for realizing freedom and equality among citizens. As we (p. 102) have seen, both face significant challenges that put the very viability of liberal and republican citizenship in question. Here I point to three areas that particularly need further exploration
The first issue is how citizenship can be realized under current conditions of increasing social and economic inequality. How can citizens be seen as free and equal, identify with a common good, or be active citizens when those with work have no time, and those without work lack resources? While egalitarian liberals have emphasized the need for economic redistribution in terms of individual claims of justice and equal opportunity, for republicans it is as the foundation for equal citizenship that economic inequalities among citizens need to be limited. But the contemporary implications of this have so far received limited attention. While Pettit sees the need for a moderate level of redistribution on grounds internal, rather than (as for Rawls) additional, to freedom, others argue that more radical socio-economic implications follow from a concern with republican freedom.66
A second issue is whether there is a conception of citizenship that can contribute to addressing the collective action problems that confront us, in particular climate change, and elicit a sense of the common good and collective responsibility at a global level. Here republican citizenship may offer more possibilities, since it focuses on the importance in politics of realizing common as well as protecting individual goods, and is particularly sensitive to the threat to their realization that is posed by sectional interests. Yet there is an issue whether and how citizens, already disengaged and disempowered within nation-states, may be motivated to support such global common goods, and envisage the possibility of effective collective action.
This leads to the final issue: the motivation to participation and solidarity among citizens. How can citizenship motivate without being exclusive? While there has been much discussion of the question whether cultural commonality is a necessary and sufficient basis for solidarity, the possibilities of participation and interaction among citizens are increasingly in question. On the one hand, there is a long-standing view that citizen participation in decision-making on a large scale is impossible or undesirable. However, a wide range of experiments in participation suggest that there may be approaches other than large scale direct democracy or representation for realizing participation, and some theorists suggest that this may be a way to engage citizens in ways that elicit a deliberative approach and concern for the common good at a range of levels. Whether and how these can be elaborated in liberal (p. 103) and republican terms and whether this possibility can be borne out in practice need further examination.
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(1) Duncan Bell, ‘What is Liberalism?’, Political Theory 42, no. 6 (2014): pp. 682–715, doi: 10.1177/0090591714535103, p. 689.
(2) Also concerned with civic virtue, these have been referred to as ‘civic liberals’. Cf. Dale Miller, ‘John Stuart Mill’s Civic Liberalism’, History of Political Thought 21, no. 1 (2000): pp. 88–113; Bell (n 1).
(3) John Rawls, Theory of Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971); Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977).
(4) Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986); John Christman and Joel Anderson, eds., Autonomy and Challenges to Liberalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
(6) J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); Quentin Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought, 2 volumes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978); Quentin Skinner, Liberty before Liberalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
(7) Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1958); Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (New York: Penguin, 1977); Philip Pettit, Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997); Michael Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent (Cambridge: Harvard Belknap, 1998). See further Iseult Honohan, Civic Republicanism (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2002).
(11) Isaiah Berlin, ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, in Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969).
(12) John Rawls, Political Liberalism, 2nd, paperback edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), pp. 205–206.
(13) Charles Larmore, ‘Liberal and Republican Conceptions of Freedom’, in Daniel Weinstock and Christian Nadeau, eds., Republicanism; History, Theory, Practice (London: Frank Cass, 2004), pp. 96–119.
(14) Compatibility is proposed by, e.g., Charles Taylor, ‘Cross-Purposes: The Liberal-Communitarian Debate’, in Philosophical Arguments (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), pp. 181–203; Richard Dagger, Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship, and Republican Liberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997). Rejecting any distinctive republican appeal are, e.g., Alan Patten, ‘The Republican Critique of Liberalism’, British Journal of Political Science 26, no. 1 (1996): pp. 25–44; Robert Goodin, ‘Folie Républicaine’, Annual Review of Political Science 6 (2003): pp. 55–76.
(15) Likewise, Habermas sees private and public freedom as co-original (Jürgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996)).
(17) John Maynor, Republicanism in the Modern World (Cambridge: Polity, 2003); Richard Bellamy, Political Constitutionalism: A Republican Defense of the Constitutionality of Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
(19) Thomas H. Marshall, Citizenship and Social Class and Other Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950).
(22) Jon Elster, ‘The Market and the Forum’, in James Bohman and William Rehg, eds., Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997), pp. 3–33.
(23) John Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, edited by Erin Kelly (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 92.
(26) For a range of views, see Eamonn Callan, Creating Citizens: Political Education and Liberal Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997); Meira Levinson, The Demands of Liberal Education (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Harry Brighouse, On Education (London and New York: Routledge, 2006); Matthew Clayton, Justice and Legitimacy in Upbringing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); Will Kymlicka, ‘Education for Citizenship’, in Politics in the Vernacular (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 291–316.
(29) Carole Pateman, ‘Feminist Critiques of the Public/Private Dichotomy’, in Stanley Benn and Gerald Gaus, eds., Public and Private in Social Life (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1983), pp. 281–303; Susan Moller Okin, Justice, Gender, and the Family (New York: Basic Books, 1989). See also Volpp in this volume.
(30) Iris Marion Young, ‘Polity and Group Difference’, Ethics 99 (1989): pp. 250–274.
(32) Marilyn Friedman, ‘Pettit’s Civic Republicanism and Male Domination’, in Cécile Laborde and John Maynor, eds., Republicanism and Political Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008); M. Victoria Costa, ‘Is Neo-Republicanism Bad for Women?’, Hypatia 28, no. 4 (2013): pp. 921–936.
(34) Tom O’Shea, ‘Disability and Domination: Lessons from Republican Political Philosophy’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, early view (2016) doi: 10.1111/japp.12149.
(35) Anne Phillips, ‘Feminism and Republicanism; is this a Plausible Alliance?’, Journal of Political Philosophy 9, no 2 (2000): pp. 270–293.
(38) Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).
(39) Brian Barry, Culture and Equality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
(40) Robert Putnam, ‘E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century’, Scandinavian Political Studies 30, no. 2 (2007): pp.137–174.
(42) Cf., e.g., Tom van der Meer and Jochem Tolsma, ‘Ethnic Diversity and Its Effects on Social Cohesion’, Annual Review of Sociology 40 (2014): pp. 459–478.
(43) Frank Lovett, ‘Cultural Accommodation and Domination’, Political Theory 38, no. 2 (2010): pp. 243–267; Mira Bachvarova, ‘Multicultural Accommodation and the Ideal of Non-domination’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 17, no. 6 (2014): pp. 652–73, doi:10.1080/13698230.2013.826500.
(44) Seyla Benhabib, ‘Judgement and the Moral Foundations of Politics in Arendt’s Thought’, Political Theory 16, no. 1 (1988): pp. 29–51.
(45) John Rawls, ‘The Idea of Public Reason Revisited’, University of Chicago Law Review 64, no. 3 (1997): pp. 765–807, p. 776.
(46) Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); Jürgen Habermas, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere’, European Journal of Philosophy 14, no. 1 (2006): pp. 1–25; Robert Audi, Democratic Authority and the Separation of Church and State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Jeremy Waldron, ‘Two-Way Translation: The Ethics of Engaging with Religious Contributions in Public Deliberation’, Mercer Law Review 63 (2012): pp. 845–868.
(47) Cécile Laborde, Critical Republicanism: The Hijab Controversy and Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 40.
(48) Though at the time of writing, the French Conseil D’Etat has just struck down mayoral bans on wearing burkinis on public beaches.
(49) Veit Bader, Secularism or Democracy? Associational Governance of Religious Diversity (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2007).
(51) On ‘even-handedness’ see also Joseph Carens, Culture, Citizenship and Community (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
(54) Whether these conceptions are extensible beyond the west is a further issue; for discussion whether republicanism may be more congenial than liberalism in the Asian context, e.g., see Jun-Hyeok Kwak and Leigh Jenco, eds., Republicanism in North East Asia (London: Routledge, 2014).
(55) Arguably neither theory can provide definitive criteria for allocating membership: while for liberals in the social contract tradition, voluntary consent to a political authority, and, for republicans, sustained interdependence in subjection to a coercive authority can be seen as grounds for membership, neither on their own can determine boundary issues. See Bauböck in this volume.
(57) Charles Beitz, Political Theory and International Relations, 2nd edition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999); Thomas Pogge, World Poverty and Human Rights, 2nd edition (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2008); John Rawls, The Law of Peoples (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999).
(58) Cécile Laborde and Miriam Ronzoni, ‘What is a Free State? Republican Internationalism and Globalisation’, Political Studies 64, no. 2 (2016): pp. 279–296, doi:10.1111/1467-9248.12190.
(59) Laborde and Ronzoni (n 58); Jose Luis Marti, ‘A Global Republic to Prevent Global Domination’, DIACRÍTICA 24, no. 2 (2010): pp. 31–72; James Bohman, Democracy across Borders: From Dêmos to Dêmoi (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007).
(60) Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice (Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1983).
(61) Joseph Carens, The Ethics of Immigration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); Phillip Cole, Philosophies of Exclusion: Liberal Political Theory and Immigration (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000); Arash Abizadeh, ‘Democratic Theory and Border Coercion: No Right to Unilaterally Control Your Own Borders’, Political Theory 36, no. 1 (2008): pp. 37–65.
(62) Kit Wellman, ‘Immigration and Freedom of Association’, Ethics 119, no. 1 (2008): pp. 109–141; David Miller, Strangers in Our Midst: The Political Philosophy of Immigration (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016).
(63) Megan Benton, ‘The Problem of Denizenship: A Non-domination Framework’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 17, no. 1 (2014): pp. 49–69; Sarah Fine, ‘Non-Domination and the Ethics of Migration’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 17, no. 1 (2014): pp. 10–30.
(64) Philip Pettit, On the People’s Terms (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 161–162.
(65) M. Victoria Costa, ‘Republican Liberty and Border Controls’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 19, no. 4 (2016): pp. 400–415, doi: 10.1080/13698230.2015.1066046.
(66) Pettit (n 7 and n 64); cf. more radical accounts at, e.g., Stuart White, ‘The Republican Critique of Capitalism’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 14, no. 5 (2011): pp. 561–579, doi:10.1080/13698230.2011.617119; Alex Gourevitch, From Slavery to the Cooperative Commonwealth: Labor and Republican Liberty in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).