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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S052-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

Significant divisions exist in all societies and communities of any size. The expression of these divisions in politics takes many forms, one of them republican. The hallmark of republican politics is the subordination of different interests to the common weal, or what is in the interest of all citizens. To ensure this outcome, government in a republic can never be the exclusive preserve of one interest or social order; it must always be controlled jointly by representatives of all major groups in a society. The degree of control exercised by representatives of different social elements may not be equal, and different styles of government are compatible with republican objectives. However, all republican governments involve power-sharing in some way. Even in a democratic republic political majorities must share power with minorities for the common good to be realized.

Maintaining an appropriate balance of political power is the chief problem of republicans. One or another faction may obtain control of government and use it to further its own interests, instead of the common weal. To prevent this republicans have developed a variety of strategies. Some rely on constitutional ‘checks and balances’ to cure the mischief of factionalism. Others seek to minimize factionalization itself by regulating the causes of faction – for example, the distribution of land and other forms of property. Still others promote civic religions in order to bind diverse people together. All these methods accept the inevitability of conflicting interests, and see the need to accommodate them politically. Hence, civic life is at the heart of republicanism.

Citing this article:
Hanson, Russell L.. Republicanism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S052-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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