Democratic Citizenship: Beyond Payer's Privilege and Nation's Unity

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 4C G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Jennifer BRICHZIN, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany
The development of the idea of citizenship and the rise of capitalist economy were closely intertwined from the beginning. The gradual emancipation of the townspeople was based on the power deriving from new monetary resources  – a power which ultimately promoted the awareness that citizenry action counted. That way democracy and capitalist economy are closely connected, at least seen from a historical stance. The question I want to explore here is: To what extend do we still see this common origin in attitudes of citizens towards democratic practices today? And: Is there a problem?

To date, many political surveys show that the political knowledge of the average citizen is restricted, and that her/his political conceptions are contradictory. They oscillate between the demand that voters’ wishes should be followed and a high esteem for brave, even unpopular decisions – in other words, between the idea of the independent political leader and the notion of a strictly dependent people’s agent (e.g. Schüttemeyer 2003). To emphasize the need for “true” political leaders, economy is often pointed at: Where would we be, if companies were managed like the state? But for the opposite notion of good political representatives, economy also serves as a role model: Who pays the prize (meaning: the tax) may decide the purpose.

Based on an ethnographic study in which German parliamentarians on four different parliamentary levels where followed throughout their working days, I want to show the problematic logic that lies behind the interaction between citizens and politicians. It becomes obvious that both common interpretations of political practice – either economic analogies, or a classically democratic trust in “the people/nation” – are inadequate to grasp the tasks of modern globalized politics. Following Hannah Arendt’s ideas, I plead for the development of a new desubstantialized pluralistic version of democratic theory.