The Language of Republicanism (part 5 of infinity)

From my Dissertation Prospectus:

…the political science community is calling for research regarding the distinction of liberalism and republicanism—to further understand the distinctions and interactions of political languages upon the polity and society. For example, the School of Public Policy, University College London, is hosting a conference “to explore the relationship between liberal and republican political theory with regard to their public policy implications. In particular, it seeks to examine the extent to which liberal and republican theory generate genuinely different public policy recommendations; whether or not it is possible to synthesise liberal and republican accounts; or whether a clear demarcation should be made between the two traditions.”[1] For example, below is the points of interest regarding the conference (

  • To what extent, and in what way, are liberal and republican recommendations different for a given policy area (e.g. citizenship, education, immigration, multiculturalism, censorship, climate change)?

  • Are the conceptual and normative differences that underpin liberal and republican policies susceptible to integration?

  • Or do they generate strict boundaries between liberal and republican policy recommendations?

  • Would a synthesis of liberal and republican policies be plausible and/or desirable?

My dissertation has paragraphs like the following:

                Republicanism is the political language of freedom for all, via nondomination by anyone.  John Maynor wrote Republicanism in the Modern World.  In his research, Maynor articulated points of Machiavelli to clarify republicanism.  To Machiavelli, republicanism meant that “to be free means not to depend on the will of another” (2003, 24).  And freedom may be threatened in two ways according to Machiavelli.  First, freedom may be threatened in the state by an external force, such as being invaded.  Second, internal self-interest could allow people to dominate one another.  In this manner, liberalism allows freedom to be threatened by internal self-interest, while republicanism does not allow such domination to affect everyone’s freedom. Therefore, the structures of these political languages are likely quite unique.

Republicanism is a political language that embraces virtue, while liberalism is silent about virtue. Machiavelli described “Fortuna,” an external force designed to tempt one away from virtue (or more generally as critical events that call for change in the status quo), as a force to put one “into a life of corruption” (Maynor, 27).  Liberalism ignores this force or its significance; or as Hartz would say, liberalism reacts with a closing down of the ranks.  Structurally, it is republican liberty that is “essential to the realization of virtue” (Ibid).  While liberalism allows all people to have an opportunity to be involved in the political process, republicanism finds that exclusion from political process alienates people, and (collective) liberty vanishes (Maynor, 28).

Hartz may have given too much credit to liberalism and may not have understood when republicanism was truly the political language being discussed.  Nondomination was certainly a foundational political argument of the American Founders.  Maynor found that “as long as the British held the power to interfere arbitrarily with the American colonies; they would be unfree in the republican sense” (37).  There certainly was a revolution for freedom and the British were defeated.  The Founders most definitely did endure domination by the British through all things political, especially taxes.  America was absolutely “subject to arbitrary interference by other agents” (Ibid).  Thus, the political language of the Founders may have revolved more around nondomination than the Lockian tradition.

Republicanism, as a language that is a structure–that is holding position in political space and taking positions against other political spaces–is alive when freedom is recognized for all groups and people.  Moreover, you will hear the language of republicanism when you consider that no group or individual may be dominated by another.  Thus, republicanism is mostly a political language to describe and enact nondomination public policy.  Non-domination (1) secures you from anxiety of interference, (2) reduces the need to anticipate arbitrary interference, (3) increases trust and stability (Maynor, 44-45).  In order for republicanism to engage the real discussions inside the Beltway, the state and individuals must track individuals’ interest so that they don’t dominate them (Maynor, 53).

In short, liberals require freedom but do not require freedom without domination.  Republicans “take self-interested individuals and attempt to regulate their activity through certain instrumental processes and restraints… hope that they will become individuals of a certain character type… act in a nondominating manner” (Maynor, 57).  To republicanism: liberty is nondomination and nondomination is liberty.  The republicanism language will constantly question how the state may interfere to promote “ideals and values… of nondomination” (Maynor, 82).  The state will challenge dominating ways of life and abandon liberal neutrality (Ibid).


3 thoughts on “The Language of Republicanism (part 5 of infinity)

  1. Pingback: Understanding republicanism | Political Pipeline

  2. Pingback: American Exceptionsism as Culture | Political Pipeline

  3. Pingback: APSA Abandons liberalism and Advocates republicanism? | Political Pipeline

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