principles of a discipline of citizenship

I’ve written before about the lack of an academic discipline relevant to civics or citizenship. If there were such a discipline, it might adopt the following principles:

The ultimate purpose of studying politics is to decide what should be done. That requires understanding ethics, strategy, and empirical facts and their causes.

Human beings have political agency that is worth studying, despite the power of big institutions. What human beings should do is an important question, not just how institutions should be organized.

Notwithstanding the previous point, it is crucial to understand how institutions reward or discourage ethical participation. It is not helpful to exhort people to be good citizens if they face barriers or collective-action problems.

Politics is not just the interaction of people or organizations that have different interests. It is also the process by which opinions, values, interests, and identities are formed. In other words, values are not exogenous to politics; they emerge from politics.

Politics is not zero-sum. There is an important aspect of politics that is creative, that expands the store of public goods.

People begin as powerless and voiceless infants and develop into active citizens. Human beings are agents in their own development, but they also need appropriate opportunities to develop political skills and identities. The opportunities must come in an appropriate sequence.

To understand politics often requires direct experience and real-world experimentation, not just data and laboratory-type experiments.

Politics is not merely a cost; it can be an intrinsic good.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to principles of a discipline of citizenship

  1. Scott D says:

    Peter,

    you list several tensions — personal efficacy vs. institutional arrangements, policy debate relies upon shared values vs. creates shared values, real world knowledge vs. scientific study.

    Unfortunately few academic fields or teachers can meaningful acknowledge multiple truths — and allow the tensions to make the subject alive! This is the trajectory of modern thinking and cannot easily be overcome. Josh Mitchell suggests the main political science fields — methodological individualism and socialization — are descended from Reformation categories of Luther and Rousseau. Mitchell then offers Plato’s SOUL categories as an alternative.

    I know you are thinking more broadly, but to what extent does CP4 create space for this integration you seek — besides having a great reading list and seminar for theorizing. The Georgetown MA in Democracy Studies (http://cdacs.georgetown.edu/democracystudies/) and seems to try to do.

  2. Peter Levine says:

    Scott is referring to the University of Maryland’s Committee on Politics, Philosophy, and Public Policy, which — I’d like to think — is a baby step in the right direction.

Comments are closed.