How did Rousseau Influence American Government

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Developmental Republicanism: Does It Have a Place in Policy Making of Today American Government

Time is something of a nuisance when it comes to policy-making. In an ever-changing world where there are advancements in all aspects of life, are we still expected to use old laws, or do we passively follow the policies made by people who lived in completely different circumstances? It is a question that is worth asking given that if policies were openly changed, the validity of those policies would be put under scrutiny given that all the judgments that were brought down in the past have no substance to them, judgements in regard to policies that have now changed to accommodate a changing society. When we look at democratic history, there are plenty of shifts that have happened which led to a plethora of ancient/classical democratic theories and also contemporary theories of republicanism and democracy. Take in case Republicanism. To be more specific developmental republicanism. This essay will focus on how a classical/ancient theory of democracy such as developmental republicanism, has had its implications for creating policy today and also to inform a comprehension of today’s issues and the nature of republicanism because of the beginnings of the will of the people, implementation in the American governance system, and how the old can influence the new. Before the main points and evidence breakdown, this essay will showcase some historical context for developmental republicanism.

Republicanism. A word that has been given fortitude and meaning over the years of its development and implementation in democracy. But every ideology, especially ones that have gone through so many different philosophers, has forms that change and influence other theories. The theory of developmental republicanism is a theory that is widely accepted as a stepping stone to how republicanism is today. David Held’s Models of Democracy, says that “although it was not until the writings of Rousseau in the eighteenth century that it probably acquired its most elaborate statement”. (Held, 2006, p. 35) What Held is insinuating is that developmental republicanism was quite a mixed theory when Rousseau took it over from the Marsilius of Padua. It was a mixed theory given that after Padua was in power, Niccolo Machiavelli took great influence from developmental republicanism to his own protective republicanism. Rousseau then took influence from both Padua and Machiavelli with changes of his own to utilize protective republicanism, as it is not in its developmental stage anymore. Held has said that “the republican creation of a self-ruling community which is elaborated in two variants: protective and developmental republicanism” (Held, 2006, p.3), this shows that there is a differentiation between the two forms of republicanism, but they are still close relatives or “variants” of core republicanism. In the words of George Garnett, the Marillius of Padua was a man who was considered to be ahead of his time given that he was the first nonreligious political theorist to adopt republicanism. (Garnett. G, 2006, p.1) Although Padua was a renowned gentleman of his time, a recent news report from the University of Leuven adds some fruit to the thought of that Padua’s political thoughts have some “Averroist” foundations. (VerticalNews, 2019, p.1) Averroist is a medieval school of philosophy that is based on interpretations of Aristotle and his reconciliation with Aristotelianism with the Islamic Faith. (Brittanica, 2009, p.1) Does any of this contribute to the importance of developmental republicanism? Yes and no. This shows that Padua has had differing opinions on his theory of republicanism which could then contribute to the fact that developmental republicanism was not a popular theory until contemporary times.

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Back when Rousseau was in power, he was barely ever listened to in regards to his views on governance. Rousseau believed in the theory of developmental republicanism as it brought the idea of the “will of the people” to the forefront. A focus on collectives and teamwork would have been a very powerful asset to have and a very prideful one at that. Americans should have welcomed Rousseau’s ideas as they should have been the most “receptive to his ideas and, indeed, most in need of them. In almost everything that mattered, Rousseau and the New World republicans espoused the same values and shared the same dilemmas” (Zuckerman, 2012, p. 20) But, Americans “do not treasure freedom, individuality, and personal development as they say they do. They have always preferred more conformist and collective, more controlling and coercive”. (Zuckerman, 2012, p.30) This shows us that the new republic back then in Rousseau’s time did not think for themselves or even wanted to. That people preferred a more controlling environment and they preferred being controlled over by a higher power, like a god among them, beckoning orders at them. A severe departure as to how things are today where the will of the people is taken into account more often than not. Although we have higher powers in today's American governments and we listen and abide by rules set by these higher powers, we are not “coerced” by them in any way shape, or form. The will of the people is implemented in so many aspects of our life. In the words of Jonathan Israel, Rousseau had a long and lasting impression on philosophical education but still sorely lost out in the great educational debate in the 1970s in France. (Israel. J, 2012) This also contributes to the fact that not just Americans, who should have been susceptible to Rousseau’s ideals, but the French were also not cooperating with Rousseau’s ideals. It is as if the world at the time did not believe in a common collective or being homogenous with each other. The state of being equal with others must have not been a point of contention between people.

This might be quite an unorthodox connection to developmental republicanism, but it fits nonetheless. Back when “Sonic The Hedgehog” released its first trailer, the blue hedgehog looked absolutely terrible, and fans hated it. So what did fans do? They trashed the film and threatened to boycott it because of how bad the character looked. The film was then delayed given how much backlash was received. The film was delayed for the sole purpose of changing the way Sonic looked. And, they completely changed the way Sonic looks to make him look more like well, Sonic. (Lee. C, 2020, p.1) The “will of the people” beat the corporation that is Paramount. The people were not controlled or coerced in any way during this whole escapade. This would have never happened if it weren’t for the invention of developmental republicanism by Padua and by Rousseau, both incredible men.

The social infrastructure and American government today that we have built over time, are an infrastructure that implements so many different theories of republicanism and democracy alike to allow governance to move steadfastly and efficiently. This same social infrastructure gave birth to the beast that is social media. This can be seen as either a big step up for some people when compared to past social infrastructures, or the opposite. Greenpeace International, the non-governmental organization that fights for environmental justice did use the developmental republicanism model “for setting organizational policy” and “forming effective leaders who are committed to the cause”. (Roose, 2012, p.1) Greenpeace International’s implementation of developmental republicanism into their own governance system is something of a mixed bag but still fully operational. In regards to the strengths of the developmental republic model, David Roose said: “fostering virtue and homogeneity in its members before they are enfranchised, allowing the democratic process to promote the most virtuous members, and legitimizing the decisions of the Council by creating a forum conducive to deliberation”. (Roose, 2012, pa. 17) In regards to the weaknesses of the developmental republic model, Roose writes that the developmental republican setting for policy-making actually reduces the quality of policy given that environmental causes come up which could then lead to bureaucratic thinking within groups. (Roose, 2012, pa. 20) These two excerpts show us that the developmental republic model that Greenpeace uses has its strengths and its weaknesses. The main strength of the form is that it encourages and succeeds in instilling a state of being equal within a collective, much like what Rousseau preached. The fact there are strengths and weaknesses in the implementation of developmental republicanism shows that it can still be used in a contemporary setting. If it can be used in this fashion then it could answer the question of if ancient/classical theories still have a role to play in today’s policymaking.

We live in an ever-changing world filled with new developments left and right. Developments that impact our health system, entertainment, culture, food, you name it. Democracy and policymaking developments are happening all over the world. Marijuana laws, new policies like an increase in federal taxes, vaping regulations, an indigenous welfare system and so much more. (Puzic.S, 2020, p.1) All of these are contemporary policies that are only being issued and brought upon in 2020. Imagine the number of new policies that come in every year and especially back during developmental democracy times. Do those older policies still have a role to play in today’s society and policymaking? Yes, given that older policies are subject to change when circumstances change in the world. Shifts to policies are very possible. For example, developmental democracy has changed considerably since its inception. In the words of Peter Cannavo, “change and stability would be distributed along a spectrum of places in a democratically governed region. Such an approach would combine the best of Jefferson's republicanism and Thoreau's environmentalism: civic virtue, attention to the common good, democratic participation, material moderation, political and ecological sustainability, and a respectful but materially engaged relationship with the natural world. (Cannavo. P, 2010, p.371) This shows the change in democratic governance with Jeffersonian environmentalism governance within it as well. What was said by Cannavo is interesting in that, what was brought upon when Jefferson and Thoreau combined their republicanism and environmentalism model are all ideas that are shared now in democratic governance in America. This shows that the old can influence the new. Civic virtue, democratic participation, material moderation, and political and ecological sustainability are all ideologies that are present within our society albeit, a little unrefined. Unrefined in the sense that democratic systems focus on so many things all at once; so for every single ideology to be contributed equally is a task on its own. In the words of Mark Warren, democratic systems should maximize the number of people within the system. (Warren. M, 2002, p.678) In the words of Sara Bosin, “Civic virtue helps people understand their ties to the community and their responsibilities within it. In many ways, an educated citizen who possesses civic virtue is a public good”. (Bosin. S, n.a) These two excerpts show that the ideas of civic virtue and democratic participation are still present and alive even now. Thus the old can influence the new.

The form of republicanism known as developmental republicanism is a model that has contributed so much to the current democratic government system in the United States. Governance should be based on common collectives and not with higher powers barking orders at the weak and weary which is sadly what the world had succumbed to when Rousseau was in power trying to change things for the better. A developmental republicanism is a form of republicanism that shows how a classical/ancient theory of democracy can still have a role to play in today’s policymaking. Homogenous collective where people are equal in every sense of the word, the instilling of developmental republicanism in a non-governmental system, and how it is still possible for an elderly theory to still be relevant even in an everchanging world are all characteristic of developmental republicanism. Finding common goodness within each other is the best way to lead a democracy. Padua and Rousseau believed in that. “The general will is the best rule”. (Jean-Jaques Rousseau)

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How did Rousseau Influence American Government. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/how-did-rousseau-influence-american-government/
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