This chapter focuses on democracy, citizenship, and elections and the role that space plays in the unequal nature of political rights, responsibilities and legal duties. It also delves into the significance of the socio-cultural theory to help in our understanding of these practices. It starts at the very beginning with the ‘Enlightenment project’ and ends with current issues such as the US Electoral College system.
The beginning of what we now call democracy was set into motion by the ‘Are of Reason’ during 1700s. During this time, the focus of life was shifting away from God and placing more emphasis on human rights and freedoms. More power and authority was placed in the hands of traders, industrialists and capitalists. Individual freedoms were taking the spotlight and with this came the rise of liberalism. With this new form of thinking, society began to pursue their own selfish interests and government was meant to protect their rights but leave them unhindered. For this new way of thinking, a new form of representative government was needed, a government that would represent the goals of individuals instead of the goals of the government. With this came problems. Power was ceded to select social groups and was not representative of the whole. As this happened, social struggles for civil rights brought different groups of state officials, ruling elites and popular protesters together to further different causes. New parties and alliances were formed and new public voices were created. The spread of political freedom was not equal across the entire state. Some groups have more say and political freedom than others. This brings us to the issue of citizenship.
While there is no fixed definition for the term citizenship, certain aspects can be expected, such as the ability to have a political voice and protection by the government. This is not always the case though. While most members in a state have a political voice, with the exception of convicts and immigrants, not all of them carry the same weight. Certain groups still hold more power and influence than others. They may have the same legal rights, de jure citizenship, but still be excluded from participation in their rights and responsibilities as citizens, de facto citizenship. This is normally linked to gender, social class, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, age, disability, sexuality and place of birth. While one may be able to speak their opinion, it doesn’t mean they have the appropriate medium to get their point across to the government and public. This is the case of having de jure citizenship but no de facto citizenship. This often leads to the creation of a new public space to get a point across. When no public space can be created and the people feel the government is not holding up their end or not going to try to create a public space for a voice to be heard, people make their own. This is the case of insurgent citizenship. When people feel their rights are being hindered, they go beyond legal action to create a space where their voice can be heard. They often seek to disrupt the operation of the state but often disrupt the operation of other groups of individuals as well. This alienates non-activists and gives them a negative outlook towards the situation. A public space needs to be created in which the activists and non-activists do not conflict and the message can get across unhindered by negative connotations. Many of the problems faced by citizens now days are not only on state level. This brings us the theory of the cosmopolitan citizen, or a global citizen. Most issues go beyond the state level and it is hard to make policy changes that will affect them as a whole. Transnational spaces need to be created to address these problems but there are still problems with this. Much as the beginning of liberalism, more power is ceded to the wealthiest states. This continues the global struggle for political inequality.
The final section discusses electoral geographies and how outcomes can be skewed depending upon the location of set boundaries. Governments have used elections to monitor and social situations of certain areas of individuals and how that plays into their view of how things should be. Voter behavior is examined in an attempt to try and sway certain groups and fragment others into a less cohesive unit, such as redrawing boundaries. This in itself can be enough to change an individual’s view due to the distrust of the political figure for their attempt at manipulating the outcome.
Overall I feel that as more public spaces are created, more voices will be heard. As more social problems are addressed in certain states, others will continue to blossom and more freedoms will slowly start to come to fruition. As the problems become less ‘important’ the more pressing issues of social inequality will be address globally.