By John Hoffman
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Extra info for Citizenship Beyond the State
Only if democracy is compatible with ‘popular capitalism’ is it acceptable. John Cotton, a seventeenthcentury divine in New England, pronounced democracy to be the meanest and worst of all forms of government, since if the people governed, he asked, over whom were they to rule? Democracy must transcend liberalism because it is incompatible with the state: a democratic citizenship can only exist when citizens are people who govern their own lives. An exclusive democracy, like an exclusive citizenship, is a contradiction in terms.
Government involves the resolution of conflicts and all societies have governments. Gellner argues that the state has become inescapable in industrial societies (1983: 5). This is essentially a Hobbesian argument: without the state, government cannot exist! Gellner’s contention that a national educational and communications system requires the state (1983: 52) spectacularly ignores the state/government distinction and misses the point that education and communication are in fact threatened by an institution that resorts to violence as a method of tackling conflict.
Whether it is the movement of interest rates, the profits that accrue to stocks and shares, the spread of AIDS, the movements of refugees and asylum seekers, or the damage to the environment, government is clearly stretching beyond the state. What obstructs the notion of international democracy is the assumption that states are sovereign and that international institutions detract from this sovereignty. The position of the USA under George W. Bush’s leadership (alarmingly reinforced rather than undermined by the reaction to the appalling events of 11 September, 2001) is rooted in the archaic belief that institutions that look beyond the nation state, are a threat to, rather than a necessity for, democratic realities.
Citizenship Beyond the State by John Hoffman