quarta-feira, 6 de dezembro de 2017

«Rethinking republicanism» (Jorge Pinto)

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  • Republicanism as a political theory has its roots in Ancient Greece and Rome, with figures such as Aristotle or Cicero among its main thinkers. Central to the definition of republicanism are the notions of freedom as non-domination, civic virtues (Cicero talked of four: justice, prudence, courage, and temperance), participation in the political life of the community and the debating of ideas, public over private interest, combatting all forms of corruption, and also the defence of a state based on strong laws – the “empire of laws and not of men”, to use the words of the 17th century political theorist James Harrington.
  • Within republicanism, there are two different lines of thought: on the one hand, civic humanism (or the neo-Aristotelian line) and, on the other, civic republicanism (the neo-Roman line). The first, similar to communitarianism in its defence of a single vision of the common good, defends the positive concept of freedom, in which the individual is free through active participation in the political life of the community. The second, clearly the most popular amongst current defenders of republicanism, argues for a vision of liberty in which individuals are free as long as they are not dominated – either by the state (imperium) or by other individuals (dominium) – and are protected from arbitrary forms of power.

  • Non-arbitrary interference that serves to reduce domination over individuals – i.e. actions taken (by the state or the city, for example) in order to increase one’s liberty – is not only accepted but defended. To give an example, when we think of the fight against economic inequality and climate change, it is difficult to make much progress without any kind of interference from public powers, such as a stronger taxing system or better economic (re)distribution. And this interference is politically more difficult to justify through a liberal vision of freedom based on non-interference, than through the republican approach of non-domination.
  • A classic example used to distinguish between non-interference and non-domination is the case of the slave and the master. If the slave has a good relationship with the master and doesn’t suffer any punishment throughout their life, the vision of liberty as non-interference would consider such a slave to have more liberty than another one who is regularly punished. On the other hand, the republican notion of liberty as non-domination would say that although this slave has slightly better life conditions, they are not free, because all the actors – slave and master – are aware of the difference in terms of power and know that, whenever the master decides – an arbitrary form of power – the slave can be punished. Thus, in this view, the bigger the difference in power, the bigger the risk of domination. This offers the political justification to avoid the (increasing) inequality between states, cities, and individuals.
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  • (Jorge Pinto, «The Order of Barcelona: cities without fear», Green European Journal)

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