While republicans enforce extreme political involvement in a specific place, and liberals foster society and placelessness without strict regulations, David Fleming suggests in chapter two of City of Rhetoric, that the world needs “commonplaces, that can link us to one another and the earth but where we remain free and unique” (34). Commonplaces combine the positives of both liberalism and republicanism while eliminating their negative extremes. Fleming argues that we need “social spaces…that are open to hybridity, pluralism, and mobility but still allow us to make a livable world for ourselves, where we can disclose our differences to one another but also solve our shared problems” (34). In order to come to his conclusion, Fleming explains the problems with republicanism and liberalism in relationship to place, society, and individuality.
Fleming asserts that republicanism is problematic because it is “too demanding, too consuming, with insufficient protection” (25); republicans believe that politics are perhaps the most important part of everyday life. Republicanism requires face-to face interaction; Fleming observes that “development of the individual towards self fulfilment is possible only when the individual acts as a citizen , that is as a conscious and autonomous participant in an autonomous decision-taking political community, the polis or republic” (25). This means that republicans can only personally improve if they contribute to the republic and grow as a community by way of face to face interaction with other republicans. Fleming correlates this dependence on communication to the great involvement of place. He insists that he cannot imagine republicans without place, claiming that the party even depends on streets for their interactions (Fleming 27). Flemming encourages place, but he does not agree with the excessive dependence on geography as republicans do.
Concurrently, Fleming proclaims that the liberalism spread itself “too thin” (27) without any type of place or set of rules. This party is built upon involvement in society, family, church and other nonpolitical spheres. Fleming’s proposal to create common spaces, includes both liberalism and republicanism because the spaces provide a place where unique individuals can come together to discuss and solve their differences face to face. By creating a commonplace, citizens go to a specific area where they can snap in and out of their political thinking, different than the republican practice of politics all the time and the liberal practice of hardly ever discussing of politics.
Book which Fleming refers to: National Standards for Civic and Government
In Fleming’s definition of commonplaces, he demands a place where “we remain free and unique as individuals” (34). The aspect of being unique includes Fleming’s earlier argument against the National Standards for Civics and Government which proclaims that “the identity of an American citizen is defined by shared political values and principles rather than by ethnicity, race, religion, class, language, gender and national order” (20). He suggests that these standards take away the history, and “hide the struggle” (Fleming 20) that African Americans, women, and other suppressed groups faced to be able to politically participate. By adhering to the standards, one is drained of its people’s history and beliefs, while being forced to abide to the practices of their political party. This draining is especially apparent in republicanism where the regulations make for little room to be different or independent. Fleming argues, “to pretend that race, class and gender are irrelevant, or that one is “blind” to them is often just a way to favor those who allegedly have no race, class, age, sexual orientation, or gender–that is white, middle-aged, heterosexual men” (21). However, his proposition for commonplaces allows people to carry their cultural backgrounds and use them when discussing differences.
Fleming finds his argument relevant because today’s postmodern public which is founded on globalization, diaspora, and multipotentiality, does not satisfy the people because it lacks a “reliable ground on which to build ordinary political life” (31). Therefore, America needs a new form of politics which can be achieved through these social spaces where globalization can occur on a “reliable ground” along with aspects from other political parties. Overall, Fleming believes that the world needs a political party that celebrates individuality and interconnections in a specific place where comfortable face to face conversations can occur.
Fleming, David. “The Placeness of Political Theory.” City of Rhetoric. State University of New York Public Press, 2009, pp.19-35
“Center for Civic Education” Textbook and Beyond, 2016 http://www.textbooknbeyond.com/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=297