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Balibar - Historical Dilemmas of Democracy and Their Contemporary Relevance for Citizenship

Balibar - Historical Dilemmas of Democracy and Their Contemporary Relevance for Citizenship

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Published by Windu W. Jusuf
Balibar - Historical Dilemmas of Democracy and Their Contemporary Relevance for Citizenship
Balibar - Historical Dilemmas of Democracy and Their Contemporary Relevance for Citizenship

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This article was downloaded by:
[University of California Berkeley] 
20 August 2008 
Access details:
Access Details: [subscription number 792225255] 
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Rethinking Marxism
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713395221
Historical Dilemmas of Democracy and Their Contemporary Relevance forCitizenship
Etienne BalibarOnline Publication Date: 01 October 2008
To cite this Article
Balibar, Etienne(2008)'Historical Dilemmas of Democracy and Their Contemporary Relevance forCitizenship',Rethinking Marxism,20:4,522 — 538
To link to this Article: DOI:
Full terms and conditions of use:http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
Historical Dilemmas of Democracyand Their Contemporary Relevancefor Citizenship
Etienne Baliba
This essay discusses the dialectical relationship between the concepts of ‘‘democ-racy’’ and ‘‘citizenship,’’ by relating to current debates which combine a transforma-tion of the philosophical tradition and an evaluation of situations where the legaldistinction between the ‘‘citizen’’ and the ‘‘national’’ is challenged. Starting withconsiderations on the semantic tensions of the ‘Greek’and ‘Romancategories
politeia, de`mokratia, isonomia, ius civitatis
), it discusses the aporias of ‘democracy’as a model or an ideology, which philosophers like Jacques Rancie`re and Hannah Arendt allow us to overcome by defining democracy as a process of permanent anti-oligarchic ‘insurrection’rather than a stable regime. It is not the spread of democracy, therefore, that constitutes the primordial object of political theory, butthe ‘‘democratization of democracy’’ itself, especially in the form of the eliminationof its internal exclusions. This theory is illustrated and further refined by referring todebates about class and race discrimination, violent struggles for recognitionaffecting republican institutions, ‘nomadic’or ‘diasporic’forms of citizenship,and the relationship between social and political rights.
Key Words:
Borders, Citizenship, Community, Democracy, Migrants, Sovereignty
Allow me to start with some terminological considerations. As we know, the term
in English, like its French or Italian equivalents (
), derives from Latin
but with the sense of
ius civitatis,
which I wouldtranslate more accurately as a ‘
droit de cite´
’ in French or ‘citizen’s right’ in English.It has a variety of meanings, which the passage from one language to another allowsus better to understand. When I show my passport or fill out an immigration form inFrance, I am asked to answer a question concerning my ‘
’ for which theusual American equivalent is: ‘‘which country of citizenship?’’ The French
is not the same as the
droit du citoyen
whereas they are largelyequivalent to the U.S.
citizen, citizenship
. This may suggest that the United States‘confuseswhat the French distinguish: namely, the notion of membership in acertain community, practically a nation-state, and the rights and duties of the citizenas an individual who takes part in political activities. I must confess that this was forme, with my French background, kind of a problem when I started teaching andlecturing in America. But on further reflection, I realized that it could be understood
ISSN 0893-5696 print/1475-8059 online/08/040522-17
2008 Association for Economic and Social AnalysisDOI: 10.1080/08935690802299363RETHINKING MARXISM VOLUME 20 NUMBER 4 (OCTOBER 2008)
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almost in the opposite sense: it is French which in certain circumstances implicitlysubjects the notion of citizenship to the possession or acquisition of nationality, whichit supposes to be its natural precondition, whereas the typical U.S. question, inventedin a country which has a long story, and also a myth, of assembling migrants frommany origins, also means: in which country do you enjoy the rights of a citizen? Thissemantic dilemma remained latent in the era of the triumph of the nation-state asexclusive or quasi-exclusive form of political membership, where citizenship andnationality practically coincided in a manner that seemed indisputable, or featuredthe necessary outcome of history. It has acquired a growing importance in the so-called postnational constellation, a period in which the national definition of thecitizen is subjected to increasing demands and criticism, in particular from the pointof view of its democratic content.
‘‘Democracy’’ As Origin, Model, and Ideology
The semantic problem, and its association with questions of the definition of rightsand duties, can in fact be traced back to the very origins of the Western politicaltradition. The series of words
polity, politics, political,
derives from the Greek
which itself is a derivative of
the ‘city.’ In a famous article, EmileBenveniste (1974) proposed to interpret in a strong philosophical sense the oppositeways in which the Greek and Roman terminologies are formed. Whereas in Greek thename of the citizen,
and his quality or capacity,
derive fromthe name of the city,
which therefore seems to preexist as a concrete realityand an individualized community, in Latin it is the opposite: the name of the city,
, with its internal constitution or system of rights, derives from the name of thecitizen,
This seems to suggest that the city is the product of the common actionor interaction of the citizens, and not the reverse. This is not to say simply that theGreeks were spontaneously thinking and acting in ‘‘holistic’’ terms, where the citizenis only an emanation of the totality that is the city, whereas the Romans would bespontaneously more ‘‘individualistic,’’ representing the whole as a permanent resultof the acting individuals, whom we might better consider as ‘‘co-citizens’’ or ‘‘fellowcitizens,’’ although this reversal could illuminate certain deep antitheses betweentheir respective conceptions of patriotism and universalism. But more profoundly itdisplays in the translinguistic space of translation, so to speak, the tensions of thenotion of citizenship, which concern the relationship between individuals, commu-nity, and space or territory. We can admit in a very classical way that the core of thenotion of citizenship as ‘politicalis formed of the interdependency of twoinstitutional relations: the
relation of ‘‘rights’’ and ‘‘duties’’
for the individuals orthe collectives; and
the relation of the ‘governing’and the ‘governed
(notnecessarily designating a fixed distribution of roles and statuses, but a performing offunctions), which means that the first are accountable before the second while thesecond are obligated before the first (Aristotle 1957). As a consequence, the notion ofthe citizen becomes barely separable from the representation of
a community of citizens,
a society formed to achieve a common good or embody a common right, asCicero (1994) put it in his
. But the question must remain permanently open
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ U ni v e r si t y  of  C alif o r ni a  B e rk el e y]  A t : 21 :38 20  A u g u s t 2008

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