Monthly Archives: April 2010

The new republicanism, part 2: The green republic

As I described in my previous post, republicanism is founded on key concepts such as public politics and self-government. In an article published in The Good Society in 2008, John Barry notes that this “language of civic republicanism has been largely absent from debates within green politics” and from discussions of the politics of sustainability (p.5). In his article, Barry sets out to do something about that omission.

Drawing on ideas from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Barry notes that “humans’ relative weakness, our vulnerability to natural dangers, makes us not just dependent creatures, but interdependent.” The republic, he continues, is therefore founded on the desire to build “an enduring home for human lives in a world ruled by contingency and filled with potentially hostile agents, both human and non-human.” This is in stark contrast to the widely accepted individualistic and “optimistic view of humans’ ability to transcend their limits” (p.6).

Thus, in many respects, the republican understanding of the human condition is much the same as the green understanding. Republicanism has both a realistic understanding of “human’s complex relations of dependence on natural forces outside our control” and an appreciation of the importance of sustainable living (p.6).

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Filed under David, green politics, sustainability

What will National’s tax changes mean?

UPDATED Saturday 15 May 2010: Looks like I may have to eat my hat on this one, if this report suggesting compensatory income-tax cuts across the board “so no-one is worse off” is correct. I shall take it as a valuable lesson in the perils of speculative punditry!


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Filed under Aotearoa New Zealand, Barry, economic analysis, social justice

The new republicanism, part 1

The meaning of republicanism is often reduced to an argument over the means of acquiring heads of state: aristocratic inheritance or election? Conversations and debates in Britain and nations with historic ties to Britain via empire and mass migration, such as New Zealand and Australia, are typical in this regard. In the public arena, republicanism is anti-monarchism and little else.

In fact, republicanism is very much more than this one-dimensional debate might suggest. Drawn from a tradition going back to classical Greece and Rome, the foundational notions of republicanism – public politics and self-government – underpinned the struggle against feudalism and absolute monarchy, and were brought to the fore in the works of Rousseau, Paine and many others.

A recent resurgence of interest in these ideals has become known as neo-republicanism. An article by Richard Dagger (2006) provides a useful summary of four important ingredients of a 21st century republic: political equality, freedom as self-government, deliberative politics, and civic virtue.

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Filed under David, economic analysis, social justice