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This article identifies two different senses in which the concept of ‘community’ can be seen to underpin the norm of vocal participation in democratic politics. The first is a broadly liberal view of community – traceable to Alexis de Tocqueville – that promotes active, vocal, and autonomous citizens and acts as a buffer between the state and the individual. A second broadly conservative view of community in the writings, for example, of Edmund Burke and T.S. Eliot treats community as organic, passive, and largely silent. It valorizes habit and habitual relationships as supporting political life through obedience to the law and respect for authority. While these two traditions stand apart, what is striking about both views of community is the one point about which both agree: citizens' sense of community is in decline within liberal democracies today. Thus silence and silent majorities are problematic to both traditions, albeit for different reasons.


Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society

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Journal Article

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