The Cultural Foundations of a Republican Polity: Culture as Communication

Delanty, Gerard (2003) The Cultural Foundations of a Republican Polity: Culture as Communication. The Republic: A Journal of Contemporary & Historical Debate, 3. ISSN 1393 - 9696

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Republican thought is based on the idea of the essential equality of all members of the political community. In the republican tradition—in contrast to its main classical rivals, conservatism and liberalism—the people are a self-governing body who can never be replaced by elites or by an abstract edifice such as the state or a church. Republicans therefore distrust liberalism, with its characteristic assumption of the priority of the individual, and conservatism, with its respect for established authority and institutions. For this reason the republican tradition has held to a strongly social view of the nature of people, believing in the power of community instead of either the individual or the state. Republicans have always believed that a society is held together by the power of its public culture. Culture—the symbolic forms in which a society represents its values—is enacted in public and has a social function, as well as being a social creation. Since the ‘republic’ was a clearly defined domain—the Greek polis, the Roman civitas, the renaissance city-state, the modern constitution—the problem of its representation could, with difficulty, be solved. The republican polity could symbolically represent itself in a great variety of forms—as captured for instance by the ideals of fraternity, equality, freedom—which could be the source of public loyalties and national identities. It is precisely this assumption that is in question today: culture and society have separated. The result of this bifurcation—the ‘tragedy of culture’, as Georg Simmel called it in a classic essay—is that contemporary society no longer can create a representation of itself.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0621 Culture
J Political Science > JC Political theory. The state. Theories of the state
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Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 31 May 2012 13:16
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2013 13:59
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