Sustain-Ability?   /   Summer 2012   /    Book Reviews

Brian Duff’s

The Parent as Citizen: A Democratic Dilemma

Cassie Miller

Liberal democratic societies have a problem. It goes something like this: democracy frees individuals from the restraints of monar chy,   aristocracy, tyranny, authoritarianism, and the accident of birth. In doing so, it relies on a notion of the sovereign self—the autonomous free person who can think, act, reason, deliberate, and decide for herself or himself, uninhibited by the constraints of convention  and  authority. The problem is that human beings  come  into  the  world as dependent infants and not as independent, rational citizens. Thus they must—to some degree—be socialized, formed, taught, even told how to act, what to think, and the difference between right and wrong.

How can children become democratic citizens and sovereign selves if they are initially dependent upon other humans, namely parents, to make them as such? Furthermore, how can parents themselves be good citizens if their primary responsibility as parents tends towards an authoritarian impulse to reproduce citizens in their own image? In other words, parenthood might bring tyranny in through democracy’s backdoor.

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