Reviving the Demos
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Amongst the inhabitants of today’s Western societies, there is a growing discontent with traditional models of state-level representative democracy. Specifically, the perceived distance between politics and citizens is a matter of increasing concern. The two main causes of this concern are a perceived loss of individual self-governance, on the one hand, and a perceived decrease of social cohesion, on the other. In this thesis, through a comparative analysis of Richard Dagger’s republican liberalism and Murray Bookchin’s confederal municipalism, my aim is to explore models of local political organization that could serve as an alternative to state-level organization. In this way, I hope to provide some suggestions as to how democracy could be revived through the participation of the people. Richard Dagger proposes a model of local representative democracy in which the state serves as the guarantor of individual rights. He argues that, because of the mutual interdependency between individual autonomy and shared civic virtues, the private citizen must be obliged to contribute to society. Murray Bookchin, alternatively, argues for state-less, direct democracy on the municipal level. According to him, both the individual and the municipal capacity for self-governance are incompatible with hierarchy. Accordingly, the state and capitalism must be abolished. Dagger’s combination of autonomy and civic virtue proves to be problematic in theory and practice. Bookchin’s argument for the abolishment of the state does not hold. Dagger’s practical implementation is more feasible but unlikely to make a real change within current democracy. Bookchin’s confederal municipalism is laborious, yet more promising to make for change in democracy by local participation of the people. As little research has been done on local democracy, this thesis offers a view on its potential to revive democracy. Other theories on local democracy and social movement that attempt to implement democracy locally are recommended for further research.
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