State-authorizing citizenship: the narrow field of civic engagement in the liberal age

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Liberal citizens are held ethically accountable not only for their own acts and behaviors, but also those of their state. Reciprocally, a proper liberal subject is one that metonymizes with the state, merging their fates and moral worth, and taking personal responsibility for the state’s actions. I claim that as a result, the liberal subject is not only self-authorizing according to liberal theories of moral autonomy, but also state-authorizing. I demonstrate the above claims through a consideration of changing activist practices among the Israeli political left. I show that the hegemonic model of civic engagement is oriented towards the state and state policy as the privileged and naturalized site of ethical intervention. I then describe the ways this model hampers political endeavors by restricting the sites of intervention as well as structural access to political participation. I also consider contemporary efforts at political engagement that bypass the state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-486
Number of pages20
JournalTheory and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Activism
  • Ethics
  • Hegemony
  • Israeli political left
  • Liberalism
  • State


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