First Advisor

Craig L. Carr

Term of Graduation

Spring 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




Political obligation, Political participation, Citizenship, Liberalism



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, 129 pages)


Dissatisfaction with liberalism is nothing new. As the longstanding dominant force in Western political thought, it has been subject to unending hostile critiques from a variety of sources. Of the criticisms of liberalism advanced in recent years, some of the most persistent and scathing have been levied by scholars identified with civic republicanism. Civic republicanism has adopted the pose of a counter philosophy to liberalism. Civic republicans, such as Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, and Cass Sunstein, argue that liberalism is an impoverished political conception that is unable to provide or sustain the moral energies necessary for a vital democratic life. They maintain that liberalism has failed, resulting in, inter alia, a nation rife with discontent. Drawing upon classical and renaissance sources, civic republicans present 2 what they claim is a revived and revitalized republican alternative to the reigning political philosophy. In sharp contrast to liberals, who advocate state neutrality and negative liberty, civic republicans believe that the state (political community) should not be neutral toward the ends espoused by its citizens. Indeed, they believe that the state should work to inculcate civic virtue in individuals in order to maintain the true liberty to be found in a self-governing republic. This thesis analyzes civic republicanism by examining the implications of its internal premises, and by comparing and contrasting it with the classical republican tradition and fascism. I will argue that civic republicanism does not represent a further development in the more than two thousand year old republican tradition. Rather, the civic republicans are guilty of borrowing from the classical republican tradition in a selective and muddled manner in order to facilitate their garbled, misguided attacks against liberalism and modernity. I will also argue that civic republicanism poses a threat of oppression; that even its core principles, like civic virtue, are unintelligible and lack sure moorings; and, finally, that it shares some eerie similarities with the fascist theory expound by the likes of Benito Mussolini, Mario Palmieri, and Giovanni Gentile. In short, the civic republicans 3 fail to offer us a viable alternative to liberalism. As a theory civic republicanism cannot, in truth, even get off the ground. It is more of an antiliberal state of mind than a coherent political philosophy.


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