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The Democratic Imagination: Envisioning Popular Power in the Twenty-First Century

James Cairns
Alan Sears
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 211
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttnzp
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  • Book Info
    The Democratic Imagination
    Book Description:

    The Democratic Imaginationexamines different conceptions of democracy, exploring tensions that emerge in key moments and debates in the history of democracy, from Ancient Greece to the French Revolution to contemporary Egypt.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0529-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Exercising Your Democratic Imagination Textboxes
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 DEMOCRACY AS AN OPEN QUESTION
    (pp. 1-24)

    In a debate during the 2011 federal election in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “I don’t think this kind of political bickering, personal attacks back and forth, is frankly going to do anything for Canadians.” Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff replied, “There he goes again with this word ‘bickering.’ . . . This is a debate, Mr. Harper. This is a democracy” (CBC News 2011).

    Democracy might seem like bickering from several perspectives these days. Many people on the conservative end of the political spectrum argue that political give and take is just so much noise interfering with the...

  6. 2 POLITICAL, SOCIAL, AND ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY
    (pp. 25-48)

    Democracy is often seen as a form of government, an alternative to dictatorship or absolute monarchy. A democratic government is characterized by elections, the rule of law, and certain protections for citizens’ rights, including freedom of speech. If the government of a specific state meets these standards, then it is classified as “a democracy.” And democracy is seen as so important that it is worth dying for—the idea that military service is largely about personal sacrifice for democracy having become a central feature of contemporary armed forces. As President of the United States Ronald Reagan (1984) said in a...

  7. 3 CITIZENSHIP AND INEQUALITY
    (pp. 49-72)

    Each year the Government of Canada hands out a small number of citizenship awards. According to Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, these awards are given to Canadian citizens “who help to nourish the Canadian story by promoting the value of citizenship to all Canadians and making a real difference in the lives of newcomers to Canada” (Government of Canada 2011a). Similar awards are given out by school and city officials to recognize people’s contributions to the health of their communities. Democracies make deliberate efforts to nurture the qualities associated with good citizenship, including many educational initiatives through the...

  8. 4 THERE AND NOT THERE: REPRESENTATION AND PARTICIPATION
    (pp. 73-94)

    At the start of the twenty-first century, the most significant act of democratic participation for most people living under democratic governments is voting to elect representatives to office, such as a president, representative, member of parliament, or mayor. A visit to the polling booth is often portrayed as a sacred act, and voting tends to be a highly ritualized process. The moment of voting is governed by a code of rules that creates a particular setting, one that may or may not contribute to participants feeling powerful and engaged. To some, democracy is protected by the individualized privacy of the...

  9. 5 RED TAPE: BUREAUCRACY, DEMOCRACY, AND THE STATE
    (pp. 95-114)

    Everyone reading this book can probably testify to at least one painful experience with bureaucracy. It is pretty hard to avoid dealing with sprawling administrative structures in one part of your life or another. Bureaucracy is usually at its worst when it is most important to you. You get to the front of the line after a long wait, and bureaucrats tell you they cannot help you. Maybe they point to the even longer line you are really supposed to be in, tell you about some form you neglected to complete, or read out an obscure policy that makes your...

  10. 6 THE POWER OF KNOWING
    (pp. 115-134)

    In November 2011, the prime minister of Greece announced plans to hold a national referendum. His government would ask Greek voters to approve the austerity measures required to receive a bailout package designed by European governments and banks. The package was meant to prevent Greece from going bankrupt. On the assumption that a Greek bankruptcy would severely damage the euro currency, the leaders of Germany and France threatened to kick Greece out of the shared euro currency zone and withdraw the massive bailout package if the referendum was allowed to go ahead. In the words of one German official, “We...

  11. 7 DEMOCRACY AND BODY POLITICS
    (pp. 135-156)

    Richard Farkas (2007) argues that a long history of wars and occupations has left its mark on South Eastern Europe: “The body politic in the Balkans is clearly marked by scars from many centuries of trial and conflict” (p. 2). The past is present in this region, in part due to the legacy those marks represent: “scars invite memory.” The political society of South Eastern Europe is likened to a human body, which bears scars that mark experiences from well before the lifespan of the current population and invokes collective memories today.

    There are, in fact, important debates about the...

  12. 8 THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES
    (pp. 157-172)

    In a quirky movie made in 2009 calledThe Trotsky,the lead character is a present-day high-school student who believes he is the reincarnation of the great Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Leon the student explains that his destiny is the same as his namesake’s: to help organize a mass rebellion against an oppressive ruling order so that the people may rise up and set themselves free. The key difference is that, whereas, in the case of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Trotsky was leading a workers’ army against the Russian monarchy, in 2009, Trotsky’s reincarnation seeks to mobilize his fellow...

  13. Glossary
    (pp. 173-180)
  14. References
    (pp. 181-200)
  15. Index
    (pp. 201-211)