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Richard Dagger on Republicanism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 168
Republicanism/Dagger: Historically, (...) republicans have been concerned less with the elimi-
nation of monarchy than with preventing the abuse of power by anyone holding public office. >Republic/Cicero.
The core of republicanism, in short, is neither a desire for representation nor opposition to monarchy as such; it is the belief that government is a public matter to be directed by the members of the public themselves. This is to say that publicity and self-government
are the cornerstones of republicanism. By 'publicity' I mean the condition of being open and public
rather than private or personal.
Mill: this is the sense in which John Stuart Mill uses the word when he argues in Considerations on Representative Government that the vote is not a right to be exercised in secret but a trust or duty that 'should be performed under the eye and criticism of the public' (1991(1): 355).
Public/citizens: but what, then, is 'the public'? And how are its members to govern themselves? Republicans long assumed that only citizens counted as members of the public and only property-owning, arms-bearing men could be citizens. Contemporary republicans define the public and citizenship more expansively, however, to include women and people without substantial property.
Institutions: Similar shifts have occurred with regard to self-government. When they designed representative institutions for the new republic, for example, the men who drafted the US Constitution knew they were departing from the classical conception of self-government as direct
participation in rule; yet they saw representation as an improvement within, not an abandonment of republican practice.
Public/citizenship: „the public“ is more than a group ot people; it is an aspect or sphere of life with its own claims and considerations, even if it is not easily distinguished from the private. Something is public when it involves people who share common concerns that take them out of their private lives and beyond: as Tocqueville put it in Democracy in America, 'the circle of family and friends' (1969(2): 506).
The core of republicanism, in short, is neither a desire for representation nor opposition to monarchy as such; it is the belief that government is a public matter to be directed by the members of the public themselves. From these aspects of publicity follow the republican emphases on the rule of law and, perhaps most distinctively, civic virtue.
Gaus I 169
VsCorruption: as citizens, people must be prepared to overcome their personal inclinations and set aside their private interests when necessary to do what is best for the public as a whole. Decisions must then take the form of promulgated rules or decrees that guide the conduct of the members of the public. From the insistence on publicity, the rule of law quickly follows.* >Rule of Law/Republicanism.


1. Mill, J. S. (1991 t 18611) Considerations on Repesentative Government. In John Gray, ed., On Liberty and Other Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Tocqueville, Alexis de (1969 11835, 18401) Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer, trans. G. Lawrence. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor.
3. Cicero (1998) The Republic and The Laws, eds, J. Powell and N. Rudd, trans. N. Rudd. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
4. Schofield, Malcolm (1995) 'Cicero's definition of res publica'. In J. G. F. Powell, ed., Cicero the Philosopher: Twelve Papers. Oxford: Clarendon.

* Cicero again is opposite: 'a public is not every kind of human gathering, congregating in any manner, but a numerous gathering brought together by legal consent and community of interest' (1998(3): 19 IBook I, 391). See also Book Ill, 45 (1998(3): 73): 'there is no public except when it is held together by a legal agreement' ; and for analysis and assessment, see Schofield (1995)(4).


Dagger, Richard 2004. „Communitarianism and Republicanism“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Dagger, Richard
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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