Caring for democracy
: Comparing Tronto and Biesta on the freedom and responsibility of the democratic citizen

  • Joris de Jong

Student thesis: Master's Thesis: BKS


Freedom is an inherent quality of democratic politics. I discuss three interpretations of freedom, namely; rights-based freedom, the freedom to act politically and freedom as care. In their concepts of caring democracy and subjectification respectively, Joan Tronto and Gert Biesta both hold a notion of responsibility within democratic citizenship. This thesis explores how their notions of caring democracy and subjectification relate to debates on freedom and responsibility within democracy, and whether the two authors are compatible in their vision of democratic citizenship. In his theory of subjectification, Biesta values the freedom to think critically about democracy and to dis-identify with the existing political order. Tronto sees freedom in the voicing of one's needs and the freedom to care. Biesta and Tronto agree on the notion that freedom in a democracy is constituted through the ongoing practices of freedom. In regard to responsibility, Tronto argues that citizenship requires taking responsibility for care, and distributing these care responsibilities fairly within society should be a main topic of concern for democratic politics. To Biesta, citizenship involves acting politically as opposed to merely taking on the identity or being socialized as a citizen. Both Tronto and Biesta see room to improve democracy through moral and political evaluation of citizenship. Both recognise the dimension of responsibility within democratic citizenship towards democracy as a project and way of organizing society. Biesta and Tronto both see a responsibility in caring for democracy and a commitment towards the democratic values of equality, freedom and justice. To care for democracy means active citizenship and participation within the public sphere and concerning oneself with the public good, which for Tronto, involves the fair distribution of care responsibilities.
Date of Award30 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorIsolde de Groot (Supervisor)

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