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The Elusive Liberal Citizen: Democratization and Public Spheres in Serbia and Bulgaria

Dawson, J; (2013) The Elusive Liberal Citizen: Democratization and Public Spheres in Serbia and Bulgaria. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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The success of the Western-led promotion of democratic institutional forms in Central and Eastern Europe has gained widespread recognition, facilitating accession to the European Union for most of these states. These specific institutional forms – competitive elections, the rule of law, the separation of powers and so-on – arose in the West as the historical realization of liberal principles such as individual liberty, equality, civic tolerance and representation. Despite this, existing modes of democracy measurement neglect the fact that, besides formal institutions, ‘democracy also needs to be reflected in the ideas that people hold and value’ (Blokker 2009:1). Since citizens can only attain the capacity to uphold liberal democratic institutions when they both understand and identify with the principles enshrined in them, it is clear that the quality and stability of these new democracies depends significantly upon the content of political discourse and its resonance with those subject to its appeals. In this thesis project, I address the empirical question of the capacity of citizens to perform the role of democratic citizens through an application of normative theories of the public sphere (after Habermas 1989 [1962]) to elite political discourse and everyday discussion in Serbia and Bulgaria. From this normative liberal perspective, the findings of this study are quite conclusive: the Serbian public sphere is clearly more contested, pluralist and (at the margins) liberal relative to its Bulgarian counterpart. The resonance of liberal-cosmopolitan ideas with a significant minority in Serbia has prevented an illiberal, exclusivist consensus from forming around conservative orthodoxies on nation and society as has happened in Bulgaria. Thus, in spite of the fact that Bulgaria is already a full member of the European Union while Serbia remains stuck in the waiting room, it is in Serbia that distinctly liberal forms of democratic citizenship are more evident.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Elusive Liberal Citizen: Democratization and Public Spheres in Serbia and Bulgaria
Language: English
Additional information: Permission for digitisation not received.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1409854
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