Jeffrey E. Green

Penn Humanities Forum Faculty Fellow

20092010 Forum on Connections

Jeffrey E. Green

Asst Professor of Political Science

Reconnecting to the People: Beyond the Metaphorics of the People’s Voice

A central promise of democracy historically has been that the ordinary citizen would be connected to a larger, collective entity—the People. In addition to considering the citizen’s individual voice, the collective voice would be formed and empowered. An ordinary citizen, even when lacking an opinion or initially disagreeing with the collective view, could find satisfaction that the collective view belonged to the People and, so, belonged to him/herself too. But this notion of a popular voice is no longer credible. As states have become highly diverse ethnically and religiously, the popular voice seems both inaccurate and dangerous. At the same time, unquestionably, ‘the People’ remains a vital notion, uniquely capable of addressing—and connecting—everyday citizens in the condition of their everydayness. Building on recent trends in democratic theory, I hope to re-conceive the People as something other than voice—and, in so doing, rethink the grounds on which democratic citizens, specifically ordinary citizens without office or special claims to power, might understand themselves to be connected.