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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Two concepts of politics : the private group/the public person Hughes, Robin Laurence David


As a result of mis-founded paternalism and policies of assimilation, the latter half of the twentieth century in Canada, and elsewhere, was marked by the emergence of a politics of fear between minority groups and governments, minority groups and majority groups and between individual members of these groups. This environment selected for the emergence of a model of politics that focused on group solidarity and fraternity within minority groups and called for the preservation of group differences. This concept of politics can be termed the private group. There are three main problems with the private group. Firstly its claims boil down to a defense of value relativism when all the evidence points to the fact that this is not the case. Secondly, and somewhat ironically, the private group accentuates distances between people and in so doing exacerbates the politics of fear. Finally defenders of the private group overstate the necessity of membership in a particular group. Born out of fear of a larger group, the private group model is apt to lead to internal cruelty and further inter- and intra-group fear. The alternative is a model of politics based on the public person. The public person is characterized by reciprocity, civility and openness. Perhaps most importantly, differences are not viewed as existing in fixed terms between groups, but rather in relational terms between individuals. These qualities are likely to be selected for in the twenty-first century as not only states, but also individuals become more multicultural. The public person suggests viewing politics in a new manner, not as a contest but rather as a collaboration. This will alter the political system and suggests that rather than voting for MPs based on party platforms, people will vote for candidates based on their personal qualities. Governance will be carried out by a series of shifting alliances on particular issues. In the end an emphasis on the politics of the public person is likely to be more just than a mode of politics which is inclined toward the private group. A step towards accepting the model of the public person is likely to enable reconciliation between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals and ultimately strengthen civil society in Canada.

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