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Citizenship and continuous democracy

Open Panel

Abstract

This paper addresses the expansion and mutation of the democratic political regime that takes place not only in Latin America but in most Western societies. Democracy has acquired a universal validity and value. The expansion of the democratic political order results in the centrality of citizenship, understood as a space of individuals who are given rights or otherwise claim them and constitute changing associative and identity bonds. At the same time there is a questioning of representation bonds in different orders of social organization, resulting in an emancipation of the political world. Technological modernization and globalization processes have favored ephemeral and informal links and weakened social identities of not only workers and excluded people, but also previously solvent sectors. Therefore the conception of public and political life as a mere expression of these realities and the conflicts they entail has vanished. Interests and ideals are constituted in the public sphere along with the citizen identities that support them. It is evident that the very institutional and normative system is in permanent revision and restructuring, so democracy should be conceived as an unstable regime, where an autonomous citizenship keeps distance from power by making their rulers renew their legitimacy in each significant decision. In fact, the political regime could be defined as a continuous democracy. Citizen life is the essence of democratic politics: it requires but does not occur within an institutional device, which, in consequence, is not definitive and universal but subject to the particular mutations that democratic principles require.