Individuality and Mass Democracy: Mill, Emerson, and the Burdens of Citizenship

Hardcover | October 19, 2009

byAlex M. Zakaras

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Democracy, unlike any other form of government, demands that citizens take responsibility for their politics. And yet, over the past fifty years, observers of American democracy have worried that Americans are failing to do so. With occasional exceptions, voter turnout and civic engagementare declining, and the average citizen's knowledge of public affairs is flimsy at best. Citizens' political posture is mostly passive: they receive political propaganda designed by marketing professionals and consume staged political spectacles that are scarcely distinguishable from other forms of"reality" entertainment. The Rockwellian ideal of democracy-participatory, deliberative, egalitarian-that still captivates our imaginations is for the most part anachronistic. How should we respond to these worries? Alex Zakaras argues that we must develop an ideal of citizenship suitable for mass society. To do so, he turns to a pair of nineteenth-century philosophers - John Stuart Mill and Ralph Waldo Emerson - who were among the first to confront the specificchallenge of making mass democracy work, and whose moral and political insights are deeply relevant to America today. He focuses especially on the idea of individuality, which lies at the very center of their theories of democracy. Individuality emphasizes each citizen's personal complicity in theinjustices committed by democratic officials, and calls on each of us to resist such complicity by speaking and acting against injustice. Individuality suggests that those of us who do no more than vote --who otherwise lead strictly private lives - are guilty of moral and civic negligence.

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Democracy, unlike any other form of government, demands that citizens take responsibility for their politics. And yet, over the past fifty years, observers of American democracy have worried that Americans are failing to do so. With occasional exceptions, voter turnout and civic engagementare declining, and the average citizen's know...

Alex Zakaras is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Vermont. He specializes in political philosophy and the history of political thought. His interests include the philosophy of democracy and democratic citizenship, the ideal of autonomy and its place in the liberal tradition, and the political thought of the...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:264 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.98 inPublished:October 19, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195384687

ISBN - 13:9780195384680

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Table of Contents

Part I: Democratic Individuality1. Responsible Citizenship2. Docility and Democracy3. The Ideal of IndividualityPart II: Emerson4. The Docile Individual5. Emersonian Transitions6. Withdrawal from ComplicityPart III: Mill7. Conformity and Subjection8. The Active Mind9. Individuality and Civic VirtuePart IV: Conclusion10. The Burdens of CitizenshipKey to ReferencesBibliography