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Sharing Democracy$
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Michaele L. Ferguson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199921584

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199921584.001.0001

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The Allure of Commonality

The Allure of Commonality

(p.12) Chapter 1 The Allure of Commonality
Sharing Democracy

Michaele L. Ferguson

Oxford University Press

This chapter reveals and interrogates the dominant tendency in contemporary democratic theory to presume that some kind of commonality is required in democracy. This claim may at first seem counterintuitive: many theorists are quite critical of specific sources of commonality – such as ethnicity and culture. Yet, instead of rejecting commonality as such, they modify the kind of commonality that they believe is essential to democracy. What could explain the persistent allure of commonality to democratic theorists? The chapter argues that theorists continue to insist that democracies need commonality because they believe it is necessary in order to meet three democratic requirements: for a shared identity, affective ties between citizens, and collective agency. Commonality can only work to secure identity, affect, and agency if a number of other corollary assumptions hold true: assumptions about meaning, language, psychology, and politics. In order to shift away from commonality and towards political freedom, these corollaries must be critically examined as well.

Keywords:   commonality, multiculturalism, politics of recognition, democracy, Charles Taylor, diversity

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