The Delegitimation of Political Authority
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Bridging the gulf between citizens and politics – or government and the governed – is an old theme. Free citizens who alternately exercise the art of rule and thereby become fully human was the core of the classical Aristotelian notion of citizenship (Aristotle, Politics, III). For Aristotle, the essence of citizenship is to both rule and be ruled. A proper citizen both commands and obeys. The qualities of the ruler differ from those of the subject, but good citizens practice both. Citizens exercise both rights and duties to maintain the polis; they weigh disparate interests and make their decisions on the basis of what is good for the political community. By exercising their rights and duties to govern and to execute the decisions of others, citizens acquire virtue and wisdom, while only those who have learned to follow can themselves become good leaders. It is well known that the governance of society through public meetings, juries and the city council was not for women, children, slaves, laborers, or foreigners. Full citizenship was reserved for propertied men. Today, we think of citizenship in an all-inclusive manner, with everyone having the right to be a full citizen. Citizens do indeed claim the right to rule, but how about being ruled? Political authority is contested. It is, of course, no longer based on gender or property, but are newer bases for authority such as representation or expertise contested too?
KeywordsFocus Group Political Party Political Authority Fellow Citizen Good Citizen
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