On political participation, rights and redistribution: a Lockean perspective

Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 12 (4):491-511 (2009)
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Abstract

Various quantitative analyses have stressed the connection between lower socioeconomic status (SES) and low political participation. The general argument behind these studies was that since political participation is crucial for democracy, and since low SES compromises political participation, liberal democratic governments cannot afford such a compromise. This paper argues that presenting political participation as a democratic value, corresponding to a ‘positive’ right, places the implied argumentation of such studies in a potential conflict with classical liberalism and its contemporary ‘successors’, emphasizing ‘negative’ rights alone. However, the tension can be reconciled by employing the political thought of John Locke, one of the forefathers of classical liberalism. Thus, the paper illuminates a strong bond in Locke’s thought between democratic political participation and liberal natural rights. In fact, I argue that it is precisely his advocacy of liberal rights that leads to a conception of political participation, converging with democratic theory and redistributive policies.

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