The Center for Critical Democracy Studies

Demos21: Republicanism and Transnational Solidarity

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On Wednesday, September 29, 2021, Demos21, a year-long series of lectures, roundtables and workshops organized by AUP’s Center for Critical Democracy Studies (CCDS), hosted its first event of the academic year. Guest speaker Professor Miriam Ronzoni from the University of Manchester led a discussion of how republicans, meaning proponents of democratic republics, can conceive of transnational solidarity. The hybrid event, which saw audience members attend both in-person in AUP’s Combes Student Life Center and online, formed part of the Contemporary European Democratic Theory section of Demos21, one of three themed sections that make up the convocation.

Ronzoni began by outlining her definitions of the principal terms used in her talk: solidarity, transnational and republicanism. She put forward what she referred to as the “original” definition of solidarity, that of enlightened self-interest: standing alongside people suffering an injustice because you yourself are suffering that same injustice. One has solidarity, therefore, not with whomever is suffering injustice, but rather with whomever one must work with to overcome shared oppression. “I’m interested in solidarity as a vehicle for political action,” she explained.

She went on to define the term “transnational” as referring to complex, overlapping phenomena that cut across national borders but do not follow neat trajectories or fall into expanding circles of influence. “Transnational political solutions are by their nature complex, multileveled, overlapping and interlocking,” she explained, citing examples as varied as the Black Lives Matter movement and hipster food-truck trends as phenomena that cross borders but only impact certain members of a demos.

When defining republicanism, Ronzoni viewed it primarily as a theory of justice. “The first, most fundamental claim of justice in a republican system is the claim to be free of domination,” she explained. “If you have the power to dominate people, it’s not enough to not use that power – you need to work toward a system in which that is no longer the case.” She also noted that for individuals to be truly free of domination in this way, states themselves need to be undominated by other states – and therein lies the impetus for solidarity-based solutions to complex transnational threats.

To illustrate her conception of transnational republican solidarity, Ronzoni drew on the metaphor of an apartment building, which positioned individual republican nations as separate homes in a building with shared structural problems; fixing such problems is presented as a prerequisite to allowing individuals to live comfortably in their separate homes. “It gives us a sense of priorities,” she explained, “reasons to stand in solidarity with outsiders that share our plight.” Ronzoni further illustrated this conception of transnational solidarity with empirical evidence from the 19th century, when liberal nationalists working to establish democratic states as sovereign entities collaborated to dismantle the ancien régime of existing European monarchies. “They had to stand in solidarity in order to create their own nations,” said Ronzoni. “But there was always an awareness that they did not want to create a common home.”

Following the talk, Professor Ronzoni took questions from AUP faculty and students.

For more information about the Contemporary European Democratic Theory section of Demos21, including a schedule of upcoming events, visit the Demos21 webpages.