Analysis of David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric Chapter Three
Evaluating the different ways a smaller republic functions, compared to a large nation-state, David Fleming discusses the benefits of a smaller democracy in Chapter three of City of Rhetoric, emphasizing the effects this type of downgrade would have on discussions of public discourse and the way it would benefit citizens altogether. Fleming begins chapter three introducing readers to the concept of a smaller republic, and the hidden benefits it involves, highlighting the idea of place itself. Through this highlighting, Fleming suggests that space, or a citizen’s surroundings, plays a significant role in the way individuals involve themselves politically. Fleming demonstrates the effects of a surrounding on an individual, stating that the, “size, shape, density, diversity, and power” (pg. 37) of a surrounding are all worth underlining when evaluating the role of an individual in a community. By dissecting the role of a citizen’s surrounding and the way it influences political participation, Fleming sets the tone for the chapter, highlighting the effectiveness of a smaller republic and the benefits that follow.
Focusing on the ways smaller communities operate, Fleming evaluates just how much a community’s qualities benefit the ways citizens involve themselves politically. Through his explanation of this concept, Fleming argues, “smaller publics, on the other hand, like neighborhoods or villages, often do a better job of encouraging and rewarding direct involvement by ordinary individuals in communal self-determination” (pg. 38). This quote calls attention to the point Fleming is trying to convey, arguing that the smaller community size enables a more active participation by those who call it home. Fleming’s simplification of the scope of an individual’s surroundings, and the way it amplifies an individual’s voice, all factor into his explanation of smaller communities as more beneficial forums for individuals to actively participate in. He compares this effectiveness to the contemporary nation-state model that presides today, stating large nation-states, “can seem remote from the point of view of the individual citizen, who is usually little more than a spectator of it” (pg. 38). As fleming contrasts the two types of states, he places emphasis on the way individuals feel more like like bystanders, opposed to active participants, in large nation-states. While the smaller community size can encourage individuals to actively participate, in a political sense, it can also change discussions involving public discourse.
Focusing on the ways community size impacts discussion of social and political topics, Fleming continues his dissection of the large nation-state, arguing that smaller communities empower individuals and enable progressive public discussions. Fleming describes the role of the individual in the nation-state as, “almost entirely, therefore, spectatorial” (pg. 41). Through this quote, Fleming highlights the difficulties individuals face, when attempting to influence public discourse, as the nation-state is simply too large to discern every voice. He then points to the smaller republic, stating that individuals have a better chance at influencing public discourse in that type of surrounding. This concept is significant, as it exemplifies the ways a smaller environment connects citizens to discussions of public discourse more effectively, making them feel as though they have a valued opinion. While the large nation-state presides in this day and age, Fleming’s emphasis placed on the smaller environment works to exemplify the effectiveness that a smaller republic involves.
Throughout chapter three, Fleming attempts to dissect the relationship between the average individual and the large nation-state. By emphasizing the differing roles that individuals fulfill within the two different types of communities, Fleming sets up a contrast for readers, exemplifying the impacts a surrounding can have on it’s citizens. In closing, Fleming’s evaluation of the way a smaller republic functions, compared to a large nation-state, point to the clear benefits attributed to a smaller democracy, emphasizing how that type of environment would enable a more active participation by the individuals that call it home.