Democracy without citizens: Australian citizen agency and the symbolic significance of not having rights

Rodd, Robin (2020) Democracy without citizens: Australian citizen agency and the symbolic significance of not having rights. International Journal Of Politics Culture And Society, 33. pp. 459-476.

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In a global context of narrowing civil liberties and intensifying state repression, it is critical to have adequately nuanced theories to account for the conditions of the emergence of democratic subjectivities. Guillermo O'Donnell's theory of citizen agency, in which citizens are rights-bearing moral agents and the 'vectors of democratization', bridges democratic and citizenship theory, normative and empirical approaches. In O'Donnell's rendering, the significance of rights lies in their capacity to legitimise rights claiming and other performances of citizenship. Australia is unique among democracies insofar as it does not recognise the rights of the citizens constitutionally or in a bill of rights. I use O'Donnell'sDemocracy, Agency, and the Stateas a focus for reflecting on the meanings and symbolism of Australian citizenship, and the symbolic significance of not grounding citizenship in rights. My discussion combines ethnographic analysis of citizenship ceremonies with critical discussion of recent laws. I argue that the absenting of rights in constitutional and ceremonial evocations of citizenship has created a vague and contradictory figure of the citizen that straddles authoritarian and democratic values and symbols. This empty and contradictory mythology unhinges citizenship from democracy in Australian political culture, leaving it susceptible to authoritarian creep. Nonetheless, democracy's symbolic openness offers hope for the emergence of new democratic subjectivities, even amidst conditions of narrowing civic possibility. O'Donnell's study of citizen agency hones attention to the importance of the cultural conditions amenable to democratic subjectivity and warrants further comparative exploration.

Item ID: 64167
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1573-3416
Keywords: Australia, Citizen agency, Guillermo O'Donnell, Democratic citizenship, Right to claim rights, Political symbolism
Copyright Information: (C) Springer Science+Business Media
Date Deposited: 26 Aug 2020 07:31
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4401 Anthropology > 440107 Social and cultural anthropology @ 100%
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