Educating Political Adversaries

Chantal Mouffe and radical democratic citizenship education Dr. C. Ruitenberg Introduction Many scholars in the area of citizenship education take deliberative liberal theory, especially as put forward by John Rawls, as their point of departure. From there, they explore how students’ capacity for political and/or moral reasoning can be fostered. Although these scholars may express reservations about particular elements of Rawls’s framework or about particular claims made by Rawls, they remain broadly within what can be called a deliberative Rawlsian approach to citizenship education. Examples are Kenneth Strike (1994), Stephen Macedo (1995), more recently James Scott Johnston (2005), and of course Eamonn Callan, whose Creating Citizens: Political Education and Liberal Democracy (1997) I will discuss below in more detail. Recent work by political theorist Chantal Mouffe (2000a; 2000b; 2005a; 2005b; 2005c), however, questions some of the core tenets of contemporary liberalism. In this paper I will explain the central differences between Mouffe’s and Rawls’s conceptions of democracy and politics. I will then address how political education would need to change if it were to accept Mouffe’s critiques of deliberative approaches to democracy and her proposal for an agonistic public sphere. I propose that such radical democratic citizenship education would be an education of political adversaries. Creating citizens after Rawls In Creating Citizens (1997) Eamonn Callan argues for a political education aimed at fostering the virtue of “justice as reasonableness” (p. 8), for which he takes as his starting point John Rawls’s conception of the “reasonable.” The “reasonable,” for Rawls (1980), is importantly distinct from the “rational”: where the latter “expresses a conception of each participant’s rational advantage, what, as individuals, they are trying to advance” (p. 528), the former “is incorporated into the background setup of the original position which frames the discussions of the parties and situates them symmetrically” (p. 529). In other words, the rational pursuit of individual ends must be subordinate to the reasonable, as the principles of the reasonable set limits to “the final ends that can be pursued” (p. 530). Callan (1997) proposes that justice as reasonableness is not a single ability or disposition but rather consists of “a cluster of mutually supportive habits, desires, emotional propensities, and intellectual capacities” (p. 8). These include “imaginative sympathy” for those who hold political opinions different from one’s own, “respect for reasonable differences” accompanied by the willingness to seek compromise, and an appreciation of the rights of others as well as one’s own rights, and of the responsibilities of balancing the two (p. 8). In developing the theory and educational implications of the virtue of justice as reasonableness, Callan (1997) draws heavily on the notion of “burdens of judgment,” explained by Rawls (1993) in Political Liberalism, and notes that “the burdens are a more subversive idea than Rawls’s anodyne discussion of them would suggest” (p. 34). These burdens of judgment are “the sources, or causes, of disagreement between reasonable persons” (Rawls, 1993, p. 55). Different from the sources or causes of disagreement between persons who lack reasonableness (e.g., who are narrowly self-interested or whose deliberation is logically flawed), burdens of judgment may arise as “the contingent but inescapable imperfections of our capacity to reason together towards agreement” (Callan, p. 25). For example, reasonable persons have access to conflicting and complex evidence that, moreover,

they must interpret using their best judgment, and reasonable persons may disagree about the relative weight of shared considerations (Rawls, 1993, pp. 56-57). Callan contends that acceptance of the burdens of judgment must be an end in political education because to the extent that citizens fail in this regard the society will not achieve the goal of publicity in whatever principles of justice regulate its basic structure, and publicity is essential to the kind of stability to which a just society might aspire. (p. 32) Moreover, acceptance of the burdens of judgment must be more than lip-service: it must “be an active and taxing psychological disposition, pervasively colouring the beliefs we form and the choices we make” (p. 34). Callan (1997) acknowledges that even when reasonable persons disagree, these disagreements are not sterile differences of opinion; rather, such disagreements involve emotions, as the political views over which disagreements between reasonable persons arise involve commitments and attachments that demonstrate not a mere intellectual “choosing” of views but a more categorical “willing” of these views (pp. 56-59). Because these views are willed categorically, they blur the boundaries that Rawls sought to maintain between the political and the comprehensive, and between the public and private (p. 31). Rawls’s proposal for what he calls a political conception of liberalism is specifically intended for pluralist contexts, in which the risk of conflict looms large. He notes, for instance, that “in a society marked by deep divisions between opposing and incommensurable conceptions of the good, justice as fairness enables us at least to conceive how social unity can be both possible and stable” (Rawls, 1985, p. 251). Likewise, Callan (1997) is concerned about the “centrifugal tendencies inherent in pluralism” and notes that “particularistic political attachments” are “critically important” in counteracting these dispersive forces (p. 95, emphasis added). In other words, the virtue of justice as reasonableness must focus on the realm of the political for counteracting the centrifugal forces of particularistic private or comprehensive attachments that continue to pose the threat of tribalization and disintegration of the polity. The many conflicting convictions and loyalties in the background culture incline us to disagreement that runs counter to respect for reasonable differences, and the vigour of the culture may draw individuals away from the civic engagement on which the maintenance of just institutions depends. (Callan, p. 100) In order to prevent individuals from being drawn away from civic engagement, Callan proposes patriotic solidarity as a particularistic political attachment. Patriotic solidarity can act as a unifying political conviction and loyalty that counteracts the dispersive effects of private and comprehensive convictions and loyalties. Since the conception of the political and the interpretation of the threat of tribalization is at the heart of Chantal Mouffe’s critique of Rawls, I will leave off my discussion of Callan’s Rawlsian political education at this point and move to a discussion of Mouffe’s critique.

Radical democracy after Mouffe Chantal Mouffe, a Belgian political theorist now working at the University of Westminster (UK), has expressed her disagreements with Rawls’s framework on many occasions, including The Democratic Paradox (2000) and On the Political (2005). As an alternative to both the aggregative (e.g., Schumpeter) and deliberative (e.g., Habermas, Rawls) models of democracy, Mouffe posits an agonistic model of democracy. This model revolves around a conception of the political as “the dimension of antagonism that is inherent in human relations” (Mouffe, 2000b, p. 15) and “constitutive of human societies” (Mouffe,


2005a, p. 9). The realm of politics comprises those elements of society that are affected by this political dimension or, more specifically, “the ensemble of practices, discourses and institutions which seek to establish a certain order and organize human coexistence in conditions that are always potentially conflictual because they are affected by the dimension of ‘the political’” (Mouffe, 2000b, p. 15). Conflict, then, is central to Mouffe’s conception of pluralist politics, which explains her contention that “Rawls’s ideal society is a society from which politics has been eliminated” (Mouffe, 2005c, p. 226). Conflict in and of itself is not a problem to be overcome, but rather a force to be channeled into political and democratic commitments. Where Callan (1997) writes that the vigour of the background culture, with its private convictions and loyalties, needs to be counteracted because it is an anti-political force that threatens to draw people away from the public, pluralistic, political arena, Mouffe might respond that these vigorous private convictions and loyalties should not be counteracted but rather channeled into political engagement. The real danger lies in negating and suppressing such private convictions and loyalties: “An important difference with the model of ‘deliberative democracy’ is that for ‘agonistic pluralism,’ the prime task of democratic politics is not to eliminate passions from the sphere of the public, but to mobilize these passions towards democratic designs” (Mouffe, 2000a, p. 103). In fact, drawing on social psychoanalysis, Mouffe (2005a) argues that the desire by deliberative liberal approaches to eliminate conflict actually leads to more destructive antagonistic conflict. As psychoanalysts realized long ago, the suppression of fundamental desires and emotions will not make those desires and emotions disappear, but only defer their manifestation. Hence, deliberative liberalists are mistaken if they expect that the need for we/they distinctions and conflict will disappear if political channels for collective identification and conflict are eliminated. What they overlook is that people’s “need for collective identifications will never disappear since it is constitutive of the mode of existence of human beings” (p. 28). Such collective identification requires the definition of a “we” that, by definition, presupposes a “they.” What deliberative theorists do not realize, according to Mouffe, is that when politics does not offer any outlets for such collective identifications, people will seek outlets elsewhere. The tribalization about which Callan expresses concern can already be observed in “the eruption of nationalist antagonisms” (Mouffe, 2005a, p. 28). Instead of claiming that deliberative models are not working well enough to contain such conflict, I believe Mouffe would argue that deliberative models have worked too well, eliminating important possibilities for agonistic, political conflict: “the lack of ‘agonistic channels’ for the expression of grievances tends to create the conditions for the emergence of antagonisms which, as recent events indicate, can take extreme forms and have disastrous consequences” (Mouffe, 2005c, p. 230). Let me now draw together three areas of critique in Mouffe’s work that will clarify the difference with deliberative models and that are of particular importance for democratic citizenship education. The first, as I have elaborated above, is that liberalism, in its emphasis on the individual, has underestimated the importance of belonging to collectivities. The second, closely connected to the first, is that liberalism, in its emphasis on reason, has underestimated the importance of the emotions.1 “The mistake of liberal rationalism is to ignore the affective dimension mobilized by collective identifications and to imagine that those supposedly archaic ‘passions’ are bound to disappear with the advance of individualism and the progress of rationality” (Mouffe, 2005a, p. 6).


See also Barbara Koziak’s (1999) work on the role of Aristotle’s concept of thumos as a relevant political emotion.


As I have indicated above, Callan (1997) too acknowledges that emotions play a role in our commitments to worldviews, and he clearly illustrates the importance of passions driving commitments when he gives an example of a disagreement between reasonable persons, “when the doctrine I ardently uphold” must confront “the reasonableness of beliefs I vehemently reject” (p. 34, emphasis added). Ardent (from the Latin ardere, to burn) and vehement (from the Latin vehemens, fierce, intense) commitments and rejections are what make the political sphere potentially antagonistic, but also, once politically channeled, what allow for the “vibrant clash of political positions” that, on Mouffe’s (2000b) view, is required for “a well functioning democracy” (p. 16). There are, however, significant differences between Mouffe’s and Callan’s consideration of the emotions. For Callan, the emotional or “affective dimension of citizenship” is, first of all, the attachment to a community that, as I have outlined above, should be channeled into a patriotic solidarity. The emotions involved in the kind of patriotism Callan advocates are not sentimental and parochial but entail “ties of fellowship and a sense of common fate that transcends” differences with other members of the patria (p. 178). Secondly, the virtue of justice as reasonableness central to Callan’s conception of citizenship requires an “emotional susceptibility” or a vulnerability to “moral distress” (p. 198). Such distress involves “a cluster of emotions that may attend our response to words or actions of others or our own that we see as morally repellent” (p. 200). Nowhere do the affective requirements for citizenship that Callan outlines touch on the dimension of the political as foregrounded by Mouffe. For Callan, the emotions that figure in citizenship are moral emotions, and there is no consideration for the distinctive role of power and hegemonic relations in the political. It would be interesting, for instance, to consider the possibility of “political distress” as the cluster of emotions that may attend our response to words or actions of others or our own that we see as politically opposed and undesirable for the social order. Actions or words that promote an interpretation and implementation of “liberty” and “equality” different from one’s own do provoke strong emotions, but rather than the moral repulsion invoked by Callan—which suggests the perception of a moral enemy, someone perceived as “wrong”—a more productive cluster of political emotions would be the renewed resolve, commitment, and fighting spirit (or thumos) to work towards the hegemonic social relations one envisions. The educational implications of Mouffe’s first two critiques of deliberative liberalisms, which I will address in more detail later, are that political education cannot consist in skills of reasoning and civic virtues alone, but must also take into account the desire for belonging to collectivities, and attendant political emotions (where “political” is taken in the sense that Mouffe proposes). The third area of Mouffe’s critique, prefigured above, is that political adversaries are commonly confused with moral enemies. Conflict between political adversaries is a necessary component of a well-functioning political realm, but in many conflicts today, the opponent is seen as a moral enemy rather than a political adversary. What is happening is that nowadays the political is played out in the moral register. In other words, it still consists in a we/they discrimination, but the we/they, instead of being defined with political categories, is now established in moral terms. In place of a struggle between ‘right and left’ we are faced with a struggle between ‘right and wrong.’ (Mouffe, 2005a, p. 5). Where the moral register is concerned with the “good,” both as individual virtue and as universal (or, at least, universalizable) value, the political register is concerned with the social order, with ways in which to organize a society in a particular place and at a particular time. More importantly, perhaps, the moral register need not recognize the dimension of power constitutive of those social relations. By contrast, addressing the “political,” for Mouffe, requires “recognizing the hegemonic nature of every kind of social order and the fact that


every society is the product of a series of practices attempting to establish order in a context of contingency” (p. 17). Having lost the ability to frame conflicts in political terms, as disagreements between political collectivities, conflicts erupt antagonistically, as disagreements between collectivities framed in moral terms. Envisaged from the point of view of ‘agonistic pluralism,’ the aim of democratic politics is to construct the ‘them’ in such a way that it is no longer perceived as an enemy to be destroyed, but as an ‘adversary,’ that is, somebody whose ideas we combat but whose right to defend those ideas we do not put into question. (Mouffe, 2000a, pp. 101-102) This critique has important implications for the way in which we educate students to disagree and to regard their opponents in political conflicts as adversaries rather than moral enemies. Given the centrality of the “burdens of judgment” in Callan’s proposal for the virtue of justice as reasonableness, let me dwell for a moment on the differences between the burdens of judgment and Mouffe’s conception of sources of disagreement between reasonable persons. Remember that for Rawls and Callan, (reasonable) conflict is the result of “the many hazards involved in the correct (and conscientious) exercise of our powers of reason and judgment in the ordinary course of political life” (Rawls, 1993, p. 56) or, in Callan’s (1997) words, “the contingent but inescapable imperfections of our capacity to reason together towards agreement” (p. 25). For Mouffe, by contrast, such conflict is much more than the result of a “hazard” or “imperfection”: it is constitutive of the political realm. Instead of proposing that individuals accept “burdens of judgment” Mouffe proposes that we establish sufficient channels for the expression and confrontation of adversarial views. What Mouffe does not spell out but what seems like a logical corollary is that a political or civic education is required that enables people to act as political adversaries, both individually and, more importantly, as members of a group. For Mouffe (2000b), sources of reasonable disagreement include varying interpretations and implementations of core ‘ethico-political’ values such as liberty and equality and the “specific pattern of power relations” that constitute the social order (p. 14). Among the disagreements between “liberal-conservative, social-democratic, neo-liberal, radical-democratic” and other political views (p. 16), Mouffe (2000a) foregrounds the disagreement between the social-democratic or “post-social-democratic” (p. 123) and neoliberal views of the social order. She clearly declares her own allegiance by stating, “One of the crucial stakes for left democratic politics is to begin providing an alternative to neoliberalism” (p. 118). This alternative would put the fight for equality front and centre, opposing it to the discourses of individual liberty favoured by neo-liberalism. To those who believe the left/right and party-political divisions are no longer relevant, she answers, That the traditional conceptions of both the left and right are inadequate for the problems that we are facing at the eve of the new millennium is something that I readily accept. But to believe that the antagonisms that those categories evoke have disappeared in our globalized world is to fall prey to the hegemonic neo-liberal discourse of the end of politics. (p. 127) Educating political adversaries Obviously, the demands of Mouffe’s agonistic public sphere far exceed the scope of education. The creation and maintenance of political channels for the expression of agonistic conflict, for instance, fall largely outside the purview of education. But education does have an important role to play in the preparation of citizens for the role of political adversary. In the remainder of the paper I will outline three areas in which political education, currently most commonly modeled on deliberative approaches, would need to change if it were to accept Mouffe’s critiques of these deliberative approaches and her proposal for an agonistic


public sphere. The first area is the education of the emotions; the second is fostering an understanding of the difference between moral and political disputes, and of power as constitutive of society; the third is developing an awareness of the historical and contemporary political projects of the “left” and “right.” I will not propose a complete program for the education of political adversaries, both because such an elaborate project falls outside the scope of this paper, and because it may well be possible to modify rather than abandon current more deliberatively oriented programs of citizenship education. After all, Mouffe (2005a) does not abandon liberalism as such, warning the reader, in fact, that “we should not fall again into the trap of believing that [the transformation of power relations] requires a total rejection of the liberal-democratic framework” (p. 33). She does not advocate a revolution involving the destruction of existing social institutions and the invention of entirely new ones; rather, she draws the limits of her agonistic approach at those types of conflict that would put into question the basic institutions of democracy (p. 120) and the fundamental “‘ethico-political’ principles of liberal democracy” of liberty and equality (p. 32). The difference with more deliberative approaches is that Mouffe views conflictual debate over the interpretation and implementation of those fundamental values and over the hegemonic social relations that best shape them as necessary and constitutive of the political domain. The changes to political education I will sketch reflect this difference. Educating political emotions The emotions have often received short shrift in political education. Traditional models of liberal citizenship education, focused on the development of reasoning abilities for the public sphere, have traditionally been quite masculinist, i.e., concerned with the education of abilities culturally associated with (and valued as) masculine values. The emotions were considered to belong in the private, domestic realm, and to be associated with the feminine. Megan Boler (1999) critiques the peripheral and instrumental roles to which the emotions have been relegated in education, based on the assumption that emotions are experiences that occur naturally, are essentially located in the individual, and should be kept private (p. 5). The first step in educating political emotions for a vibrant agonistic democracy, then, must be to give the emotions a legitimate place in education. But this is not enough; for what matters greatly is the way in which the emotions are educated. As Boler documents, the education of the emotions can take the form of management and control or what Boler, along Foucauldian lines, calls “pastoral power” (p. 21). Alternatively, the emotions can be instrumentalized, made a means to achieving personal success and other ends, as is the case in the development of “emotional intelligence” (e.g. Goleman, 1995). Instead, the emotional education required for political education based on agonistic pluralism would focus not on seeing the emotions as a private site of control or means to personal success but rather on understanding the cultural significance and significations of emotions, the way they are “collaboratively constructed” (Boler, p. 5). In addition, educating political emotions would require that students learn to distinguish between emotions on behalf of themselves and emotions on behalf of a political collective, i.e., on behalf of views for the social order. Currently, being personally “disrespected” or “dissed” seems to be the main source of anger for many students. Cultural differences undoubtedly play a role here, but in North America many students seem to be accustomed to seeing their personal opinions go unchallenged, and they perceive any disagreement as a personal affront. In this context Boler (1999) distinguishes moral anger from defensive anger, and explains the latter as “a defense against a felt threat to our precarious identities” (p. 190). The emotions relevant to political education are not those associated with a personal sense of entitlement or with a collective based on an essentialist


conception of identity, but rather emotions on behalf of a political collective, associated with views of particular hegemonic social relations. Educating the political emotions thus requires the development of a sense of solidarity, and the ability to feel anger on behalf of injustices committed against those in less powerful social positions rather than on behalf of one’s own pride. Reviving an understanding of the ‘political’ Boler (1999) distinguishes moral anger from defensive anger, but within Mouffe’s framework an additional distinction needs to be made: between moral anger and political anger. Moral anger could be the anger or indignation one feels after seeing moral values one cherishes violated; when one reads in the paper how a person in need was treated harshly rather than with compassion, for example, or when one witnesses a parent unfairly chastising a child. Political anger, however, is the anger or indignation one feels when decisions are made and actions are taken that violate the interpretation and implementation of the ethicopolitical values of equality and liberty that, one believes, would support a just society. In other words, political anger is aimed at particular configurations of hegemonic social relations. Of course, focusing on political anger and other political emotions requires that students are able to distinguish the political from the moral. This, in turn, requires that the concept of power, and the role of power in constituting any social order, must be explicitly addressed in the curriculum. Teachers who believe in the neutrality of education are likely to be uncomfortable with such an explicit discussion of the hegemonic social relations that form the context of their students’ education. Teaching students how many seats are in Congress or the House of Commons is one thing, but teaching them how power differences are not an accidental but rather a constitutive force in the practices and institutions that are called “society” is often seen as too “political.” Paulo Freire’s (1985/2001) response to such concerns is that there is no extra-hegemonic or extra-political place for education, that “education has politicity, the quality of being political. … Because education is politicity, it is never neutral. When we try to be neutral … we support the dominant ideology” (p. 148). Educating political adversaries requires that students understand that a political adversary is different not only from a moral enemy, but also from a competitor. This last distinction is important, as the conception of “political debate” in many secondary schools— and, some would argue, in party politics—has become one of competitive rhetoric rather than of a confrontation of serious commitments to conflicting views of hegemonic social relations. When Mouffe (2005a) argues that “a democratic society requires a debate about possible alternatives” (p. 31, emphasis added), she means not the structured back-and-forth between “debating teams” who compete based on rhetorical skills, but rather the confrontation in the public sphere of arguments for “clearly differentiated democratic positions” (p. 31). The ideal outcome of such a debate is not the personal satisfaction of gain over a competitor, but the articulation of political differences in such a way that the “transformation of existing power relations and the establishment of a new hegemony” has been brought one step closer (p. 52). I stress this distinction between adversary and competitor because in both education and politics the influence of the economic paradigm of neo-liberalism is clearly recognizable. It appears that competition has come to be considered an “educational” feature, and competitiveness an “educational” goal, rather than an economic feature and goal imposed on education. Similarly, for many liberals, “an adversary is simply a competitor. The field of politics is for them a neutral terrain in which different groups compete to occupy the positions of power; their objective is merely to dislodge others in order to occupy their place” (Mouffe, p. 21). Educating political adversaries requires that the supposed neutrality of the terrain in which different groups fight for their view of a just society is contested, and that the


economic paradigm that pervades both politics and education is made explicit as paradigm. Then students may learn that engaging a political adversary is not a game, but an expression of a serious commitment to democracy. Developing political literacy The third area in which political education would need to change if it were to accept Mouffe’s conception of the political and her proposal for an agonistic public sphere, is political literacy. By “political literacy” I mean the ability to read the political landscape both in its contemporary configuration and its historical genesis. Another way of putting this is to say that students must learn to read the social order in political terms, that is, in terms of disputes about the interpretation of liberty and equality and the hegemonic social relations that should shape them. In the context of “Third Way” politics in Europe, and North American confidence in the “end of history” (Fukuyama, 1989; 1992), many consider the left/right divide obsolete in the political sphere. The viability of “left” and “right” as political concepts is further undermined by the conflation of the political with the moral: increasingly, the “religious right” is juxtaposed to the “secular left,” making it difficult for political groups and parties to articulate their views in terms of hegemonic social relations rather than moral and religious values. As I mentioned at the end of the section “Radical democracy after Mouffe,” Mouffe (2005a) does not believe the left/right political division is obsolete; rather, she argues for its revitalization based on a recognition of both the continued relevance of the left and right’s traditionally opposed ideas about social equality and redistribution, and the changed nature of the particulars of that opposition (p. 119). In addition to educating political emotions and reviving an understanding of the political, educating political adversaries thus requires a historical understanding of party politics in various contexts and the changing nature of the political left and right. Obviously this must also go further “upstream” into teacher education: students cannot be taught political literacy by teachers who, themselves, have been educated to believe that the political left/right divide is no longer relevant. Likewise, they cannot be taught political emotions by teachers who do not see the emotions as having a legitimate place in education or public life; nor can they be taught the difference between political, moral, and economic disputes by teachers who do not understand these distinctions themselves. Affirming the need for political education Educating for democratic citizenship is a pertinent topic today. In Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other post-industrial societies, concern has risen over the growing alienation and disengagement of citizens from democratic processes and institutions. Harvard political scientist Pippa Norris (2000) summarizes: Concern in the United States has focused on widespread cynicism about political institutions and leaders, fuelling fears about civic disengagement and a half-empty ballot box. The common view is that the American public turns off, knows little, cares less, and stays home. Similar worries echo in Europe, particularly at the supranational level. Commentators have noted a crisis of legitimacy, following the steady expansion in the power and scope of the European union despite public disengagement from critical policy choices. (p. 3) Norris goes on to debunk the myth that civic disengagement is largely to blame on the news media, and proposes, instead, that the problems “that threaten the vitality of democracy in postindustrial societies … can best be understood as rooted in deep-seated flaws within the political systems and institutional arrangements in these societies” (p. 319). She does not, however, dispute that many citizens are disengaged.


Like Norris, many of the authors who express concern about political disengagement cite low and decreasing voter turnout as evidence. Young people, in particular, seem to have “checked out” of party politics and formal political structures. Canadian research, for instance, shows that 89% of citizens aged 65 or older and 85% of citizens aged 45 to 64 voted in at least one of the last federal, provincial or municipal/local elections prior to a 2003 survey, but only 59% of citizens aged 22 to 29 voted in one of the same three last elections (Milan, 2005, p. 3). This pattern is distinguishable in the United States as well, where the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) (2003) note that “Americans under the age of 25 are less likely to vote than either their older counterparts or young people of past decades” (p. 8). Some argue that voter turnout is not the best indication of political engagement or disengagement of young people. In the U.K., Roker, Player, and Coleman (1999) argue that the claim that many young people are alienated from political life is based on a narrow definition of the “political” and that, if voluntary and campaigning activities are included in this definition, young people are not nearly so disengaged. Similarly, in Canada, Milan (2005) writes that other “political behaviour” such as boycotting a product, signing a petition, or participating in a demonstration should be taken into account when judging the political engagement or disengagement of young people. If we follow Mouffe’s analysis, however, the traditional party-based democratic practices and institutions have not lost their relevance. Mouffe argues that the vitality of democratic politics requires a recognition of the political, that is to say, hegemonic and antagonistic nature of politics, and that this political nature is misrecognized by deliberative approaches to liberalism. If Mouffe is right—as I believe she is—then it is important to reengage young people in the formal political practices and institutions of their societies. Roker, Player, and Coleman (1999) point out that engagement in single-issue campaigning and engagement in formal political practices and institutions are not mutually exclusive, and that single-issue campaigning can contribute to the formation of political viewpoints more generally. Nevertheless, I believe such civic engagement will not be enough to support a vibrant democratic public realm if young people are not also prepared to participate in politics qua the political. By pointing out the distinctive dimensions of the political, Mouffe makes an important contribution to the redevelopment of political education. Different from citizens who seek to resolve single issues within existing hegemonic relations, political adversaries seek to establish different hegemonic relations altogether. To summarize, when citizenship education takes into account the nature of the political as necessarily conflictual and constituted by power, it must seek to augment the limited treatment of disagreement in the deliberative liberal approaches on which it is often based. In order to prepare students for active participation in the public realm not only as volunteers and single-issue campaigners but as political adversaries, radical democratic citizenship education must recognize and educate political emotions, and foster an understanding of the role of power in the political, as well as of the fundamental differences in the interpretation and implementation of equality and liberty proposed by the political “left” and “right.”


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Dr. C. Ruitenberg Department of Educational Studies, Faculty of Education University of British Columbia 2125 Main Mall Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z4 Canada


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