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The Language of Democracy: Vernacular or Esperanto? Daniele Archibugi Italian National Research Council University of London Birkbeck.

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Presentation on theme: "The Language of Democracy: Vernacular or Esperanto? Daniele Archibugi Italian National Research Council University of London Birkbeck."— Presentation transcript:


2 The Language of Democracy: Vernacular or Esperanto? Daniele Archibugi Italian National Research Council University of London Birkbeck

3 Charles V

4 What is the language of democracy? Will Kymlicka’s answer Politics in the Vernacular: “democratic politics is politics in the vernacular. The average citizen only feels comfortable debating political issues in their own tongue. As a general rule, it is only elites who have fluency with more than one language, and who have the continual opportunity to maintain and develop these language skills, and who feel comfortable debating political issues in another tongue with multilingual settings. Moreover, political communication has a large ritualistic component, and these ritualised forms of communication are typically language-specific. Even if one understands a foreign language in the technical sense, without knowledge of the ritualistic elements one may be unable to understand political debates. For these and other reasons, we can expect – as a general rule – that the more political debate is conducted in the vernacular, the more participatory it will be”

5 It does some damage to the notion of a global public sphere Can the public opinion be the “Queen of the World”? (William Ladd, 1844)

6 It does some damage to the notion of a global civil society How can the single components interact among each other? Shall we go back to the ethnic or linguistic composition of nations?

7 It does some damage to the proposal of a cosmopolitan democracy A global polity for everybody or just for the elites? Cosmopolitanism can be democratic? Democracy can be cosmopolitan?

8 Aggregative or Deliberative Democracy? A purely aggregative democracy may perhaps work also without a proper linguistic understanding But a strong and communicative democracy cannot Neither the multiculturalists nor the cosmopolitans support an aggregative democracy

9 Kymlicka’s Remark: Is it a Description of Reality or a Normative Principle? If it is a description of reality it is trivial As a normative principle, it may lead to a “democratic” ethnic cleansing Watch the historical propensity of democratic communities to be xenophobic

10 Dogville by Lars von Trier

11 A normative principle: democratic politics should be in Esperanto The language for democratic politics is not a mean to affirm identity but to be an instrument of communication

12 Democratic predisposition Equality of members Participation Non violent conflict resolution Willingness to understand the arguments of members of the same community of fate

13 Cosmopolitanism and Multiculturalism: How different are their visions? States are imagined communities States repress minority cultures Language diversity is a human value and it should be preserved Democratic politics should involve the largest amount of stakeholders


15 Single out the differences between multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism: How should political communities deal wity problems that cut across different linguistic communities safeguarding individual liberties, maximizing political participation and applying democratic procedures?

16 Four cases A state school in Pasadena, California The city of Bialystok (Russia at the time) Indian Democracy The European Parliament


18 A School in Pasadena, California A school with an increasing number of Spanish speaking children. Lower proficiency of the Spanish speaking children Perceived lower level of efficiency of the school. Even in Rugby, Hispanics are less talented than Anglos Growing tension among the two communities

19 Races in Pasadena: Whites 53.4% Latinos 33.4% African-American, 14.4% Asian 10.0% American Indian 0.7% Pacific Islander 0.1% Other race 16.0% 32.3 % of the population is foreign born

20 Languages in Pasadena English only is spoken by 55% of the population over age five. The Spanish language is spoken by 29.3% of the population over age five. The proportion of those speaking a language other than English at home is 45%; 22.2% do not speak English well.

21 From a Harvard Professor, Department of Government “There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant Society. Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English ”


23 MULTICULTARIST Crucial role of language for identity Separate the children into two different sections, each with the main language in their vernacular Rugby for Anglos, soccer for Hispanics COSMOPOLITAN “The best language of education for any child is the best language for this child” (Thomas Pogge) Education in English for all, Spanish as second language As joint sport, baseball Salsa for all parents


25 The city of Bialystock, East Poland

26 Four language communities in 1870s: Russian (4,000 peoples) Polish (3,000 peoples) German (5,000 peoples) Yiddish (18,000 peoples )

27 Lejzer Ludwig Zamenhof inventor of Esperanto Esperanto as a simple language (as the newspeak) Not meant to substitute live languages, but to allow communication It could have solved a small problem in Bialystock, a great problem in the world

28 Indian Parliament, Many Official Languages


30 The Indian State 18 official languages Official language different in each state English (i.e. an artificial construction) has become the lingua franca The majority language, hindi, was resisted by many ethnic minority groups English is still less known but more acceptable. Language of the èlites

31 European Parliament 20 European Languages


33 Should the languages be reduced? Proposal to reduce the languages to two To increase the number of translators and interpreters To go back to Latin as the lingua franca of Europe

34 Mario Capanna and Otto von Hapsburg

35 Vernacular or Esperanto? Vernacular Increases the amount of participants Direct understanding within the community Role of elites is reduced internally but increases externally Esperanto It allows the formation of cross-border alliances and parties It does not require intermediaries Elites have an advantage in communication

36 Is there a solution? Bi-lingual education Identification of a language of communication It will be at the expense of the demos for the first years, but in perspective it will allow a language for political communication

37 Citizens of All World, Converse!

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