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