Active and passive citizens : a defense of majoritarian democracy / Richard Tuck.

Tuck, Richard, 1949- [Browse]
Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, [2024]
vi, 195 pages ; 23 cm.


The university center for human values series
Summary note
  • "The idea that democracy rests ultimately on majority voting plays remarkably little part in most current theories of democracy. Instead, modern theories stress the importance of deliberation; of bodies of rights which constrain democratic legislation; or of sortition rather than election as a means of choosing delegates to an assembly. Even when majority voting is defended, as it is by the so-called epistemic democrats, it is only as a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself. This would have astonished the early theorists of modern democracy in the 18th century, to whom universal suffrage and majoritarian voting were the sole criteria for democratic politics. Based on his Tanner Lectures given at Princeton in 2019, historian of political thought Richard Tuck defends this old view and shows that democratic politics is essentially a matter of individual agency of citizens, rather than representation. In making his case, he draws on the distinction the French Revolution era political thinker Abbé Sieyès made between "active" citizens, the electorate, and "passive" citizens, those who enjoyed all other legal rights, who could make their views known, and who were "represented" by the institutions of the state. Modern theories of democracy, Tuck argues, have turned us all, in this sense, effectively into "passive" citizens, and the time has come for refreshing the idea of a majoritarian democracy and utilizing its full potential as "active" citizens. As the book is based on the Tanner Lectures, it follows the format of other Tanner Lectures and include an introduction by Stephen Macedo of the politics department and Center for Human Values at Princeton University. It also includes the comments by the four commentators which immediately followed each of the two lectures: Simone Chambers (University of California, Irvine), John Ferejohn (NYU Law), Melissa Schwarzberg (NYU), and Joshua Cohen (Stanford), all prominent political theorists. Lastly, the volume includes a substantive response to the commentators by Tuck, which will also address suggestions raised by the reviewers"-- Provided by publisher.
  • "A powerful case for why majority rule-not representation-is the defining feature of democratic politics. The idea that democratic governance rests on active self-rule by citizens plays surprisingly little part in current theories of democracy, which instead stress the importance of representation by elected, appointed, or randomly selected bodies such as legislatures, courts, and juries. This would have astonished eighteenth-century theorists of democracy, who viewed universal suffrage and majoritarian voting as the sole criteria for democratic politics. Active and Passive Citizens defends the view of these earlier thinkers, asserting that individual agency is the very essence of democracy.In this provocative and lucidly argued book, Richard Tuck draws on the distinction made by the Abbé Sieyès, a leading political theorist of the French Revolution, between "active" citizens, the electorate, and "passive" citizens, those who are represented by the institutions of the state. Tuck traces our current representative view of democracy to Sieyès and contrasts him with Rousseau, a theorist of active self-rule by the people. Tuck argues that modern theories of democracy have effectively turned us into passive citizens and calls for a renewal of a majoritarian democracy that realizes the full potential of active citizenship. Based on the prestigious Tanner Lectures delivered at Princeton University's Center for Human Values, Active and Passive Citizens is edited and introduced by Stephen Macedo and includes commentary by political theorists Simone Chambers, Joshua Cohen, John Ferejohn, and Melissa Schwartzberg"-- Provided by publisher.
Bibliographic references
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • 9780691242798 ((hardback))
  • 0691242798
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