I See TWO Political Traditions in America; Why You Only FIND ONE!?

BELOW: WORKING PAPER, looking for comments. Please consider my “empirical box” of political science here.

Political scientists are increasingly examining within relationships under the umbrella of liberalism; like Economic-Elite Domination and Biased Pluralism (Gilens and Page 2014). I argue that these studies are “within” Liberalism and ignore republicanism and that contemporary political theory should consider republicanism as an alternative explanation for American politics during the early 21st century.

We know that the American political culture focused on republicanism in the early centuries of development (Malloy 2011) and that there have been “republican revivals” from generation to generation throughout American history (Ericson 1993). Even though recent scholarship has outlined a republican conception of democracy on the people’s terms for the modern era (Pettit 2012), scholars have yet to delineate a republican political-economy, let alone how an individual may demonstrate republican values despite the overwhelming call to protect liberal values.

The problem is that republicanism has not yet been heard with one voice as an alternative core value to liberalism. As Kane openly admitted, “Different political theorists have presented different concepts of republicanism. Different governments have also implemented republican ideas differently in practice” (Kane 2008, p. 45). Republicanism is a work in progress and this essay is an attempt to relate that progress.

For this essay, I define liberalism as representative government based on representing a liberal society (i.e., neutrality, individualism, free capitalism, prefers the Alger Myth). I define republicanism as self-government based on representing a republican society (i.e., non-domination, enlightened self-interest, against rapacious capitalism, prefer open resource–open access). Liberalism has been well defined by the field. I begin to distinctly define republicanism in this paper.

I contend that the first and only principle of republicanism is simple: The people are instrumental in the formation, implementation, and evaluation of public policy according to the values of non-domination in order to solve collective action problems. In a Republic, the people enable public policy according to a public / common good by which the resources available to society are tied to all participants. This “public space” where the people work has long been labeled res publica. However, finding and confirming contemporary republicanism in the American society / polity acting in res publica during the early 21st century has been anything but simple!

For example, there were relatively few examinations of American republicanism since Riker (1955), whereby he analyzed about 20 “Resolutions of Instruction” (ROI) during the antebellum era and found them to be insignificant compared to liberalism. ROI is literally when the people, or State legislatures, could pass an instruction to the U.S. Senator for a reading in the U.S. Senate. Meaning, we do have actual examples of republican negotiation and agreement in the antebellum era—to show the power and agency stemming from the people on some particular issue. For instance, we read in the Senate Journal on February 27th, 1795 (as written):

Mr. Jackson laid before the Senate two acts of the state of Georgia, to wit: “An act for appropriating a part of the unlocated territory of the state for payment of the late state troops, and for other purposes therein mentioned;” and “An act supplementary, to an act, entitled ‘An act for appropriating a part of the unlocated territory of the state tot the payment of the late state troops, and for other purposes therein mentioned,’ declaring the right of the state to the unappropriated territory thereof for the protection and support of the frontiers of the state, and for other purposes.” Resolved, That this bill pass with the amendments.[i]

Empirically, this is a break from the liberal society thesis. In the antebellum era, the people did instruct the General Government and the resolution of instruction (ROI) did pass (i.e., the first ROI as a rider!). Yet for many decades now, scholars have built a liberal tradition consensus (Campbell 1960, Hartz 1955, Riker 1955) because only theories of liberalism indubitably describe American politics. Today, republicanism is an undercurrent moving into the footnotes section, or off the pages altogether—not connecting the republican practice of ROI to, say, de jure legalization of Gay Marriage or marijuana by the people on the people’s terms. Of particular salience, there were not 20 resolutions during the antebellum era predominantly from the South as Riker suggested; rather, there were more than 2,000 ROIs, and they were predominantly from the North (Girdwood and Grynaviski 2014)!

[i] Emphasis added.

ps., a solid political campaign for 2016 would affirm and reinforce our liberal values and “enable” our republican values!!!

pss. Tulis is still vitally important to our understanding the depths of republican discourse in American politics.




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