August 19, 2016

Active Citizenship does not mean political participation

Alongside the recognition of cultural contexts for the formulation of citizen rights, the excellent ideas of civic virtue as well as good citizenship have also been revitalized in diversified ideological strands. The revival of civic culture has come about in the non-liberal as well as liberal articulations of citizenship, taking variegated forms, depending upon the specific ideological tradition in which it is placed.  By and large, the revitalization has been attributed either to the implications which the liberal style of citizenship has had for social ties or to the intrinsic values of civic republican itself.

It is appropriate here in this juncture to mention a different articulation of active citizenship. Michael Walzers would like to be quoted in this regard. Walzers, acknowledging the plurality of social life, proposes that citizenship provides a common binding principle.  As a binding principle, citizenship is manifested in civil society– the setting of settings. Matter-of-factly, the civil society provides a space where individuals as part of diversified social groups are trained in civility and self-restraint. It is in this articulation of public life in the shared forum of participation by different groups that individuals think of a common good beyond their own conceptions of the good life. There are in fact many citizens who are only passive clients of state, being radically disengaged. Nevertheless, political participation as the only form of active citizenship is not a very fair concept because it is the right of citizens not to be engaged in politics, be it national politics or party politics.
It is worth noting that Walzers believes in the idea of critical associational life and the activities and understanding that go with it requires recapturing and relearning, and proposes that participation in voluntary organisations of the civil societies—churches, families, ethnic associations, voluntary groups, schools in mutual obligation.


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