Representation and Participation in Today’s Democracies

By Marta Nunes da Costa.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

What makes a society a 'democratic' one and how should we conceive the relationship between representation and participation in today's societies? This paper explores the tension between liberal and republican views of democracy and asks if there is a place (and what is that place) for virtuous citizenship in today's societies. Confronted with the transformation of political entities and proliferation of political bodies (which are no longer limited to the figure of a 'nation-state'), it will be argued that it is crucial to reflect upon the impact globalization has in redefining democracy for the future.

The notion of representation supposes and converges with some other concepts, namely, the concept of equality of participation, which is not only a right, but also a duty. To be equal appears not as a passive disposition; instead, it is an action, an exercise, a dynamic. To be equal means that the citizen knows his/her right,but also has consciousness of its importance and recognizes that only by exercising it can s/he be(come) an equal. This understanding of equality helps us to understand the paradoxical nature of democracy, insofar ideals are projected and adopted as norms, although never being fully actualized. It is under this light that we should rethink the relationship between representation and participation in today’s democracies. To be an equal, to be a citizen implies to be represented, but that doesn’t mean that one adopts a passive attitude or that one is a spectator. The citizen should always be an actor. However, how do we make her/him want to be an actor? In order to promote civic engagement and political participation today’s democracies should promote a real politics, a politics of the people, where individuals find their voice heard in different platforms of communication and representation.

Keywords: Representation, Participation, Republicanism, Liberalism, Democracy, Equality, Globalization, Citizenship, Virtue

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.247-256. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 646.854KB).

Marta Nunes da Costa

Researcher, Universidade do Minho, CEHUM, Braga, Braga, Portugal

My Ph.D. is in Political Science with a dissertation entitled: ‘Redefining Individuality - reflections on Kant, Adorno and Foucault.’ I have a M.A. in Philososophy with a thesis entitled: ‘Moral autonomy and political freedom in Kant.’ Both degrees were at the New School for Social Research where my field of expertise was moral and political philosophy, democratic theory, multiculturalism, human rights, and new technologies. I develop a personal research agenda governed by the concern of individual autonomy in its several aspects. Currently I am working on a Research Project entitled ‘Redefining Democracy for the XXI Century’.

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